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Under 18s Academy Finals Day – Final: Harlequins 20 Sale Sharks 8

Under 18s Academy Finals Day – Final: Harlequins 20 Sale Sharks 8

Second half tries from Luke James and Miles McDuffus helped Harlequins overcome a half-time deficit to beat Sale Sharks in the Premiership Rugby U18 Academy Final at Sixways.

After a cagey first half Sale led 8-3 thanks to a try from scrum-half Matt Sturgess.

But Harlequins turned things around as James crossed the line and McDuffus pounced on a loose Sharks pass as Quins scored 20 unanswered points to run out winners.

Unlike the day’s earlier matches there was no early scoring as both teams, who qualified after finishing top of their respective conferences, made it into the opposition 22 but didn’t capitalise.

That was until the 13th minute when Sale went through the phases and finally got close enough to the Quins tryline for scrum-half Sturgess to dive over for the final’s first try.

Fly-half Kieran Wilkinson missed the conversion but kicked a penalty to open up an eight-point lead for the Sharks with a little over 20 minutes gone.

Sale threatened to increase their lead towards the end of the half, but Quins defended resolutely and kicked a penalty of their own to reduce Sale’s half-time lead to five points.

That advantage didn’t last long into the second half though as Quins started in determined fashion and crossed over for their first try within three minutes of the restart.

Back-row forward James powered over and Marcus Smith added the extras as Harlequins led for the first time 10-8.

Some terrific last-ditch tackling denied Quins a second try but Smith kicked a penalty from the ten-metre line to give the his side a five-point lead.

And the final was settled midway through the second half when McDuffus intercepted a misplaced Sale pass.

The pacey winger wasn’t going to be stopped as he ran 40 metres to score under the posts, making Smith’s task of adding the conversion an easy one.

Sale threw all they had at Harlequins as the full-time whistle drew closer, but there was no way back for the Sharks.

Harlequins: Coyle, Barlow, Murley, Hennessey, McDuffus, Smith, Nicole, Head, Tilleray, Swandells, Tizard, Paremain, Everitt, James, Kenningham.

Replacements: Marshall, Morris, Sassone, Hammond, Glover, Anyanwu, Jardine, Searle.

Sale Sharks: Owen, Reed, Doherty, Redpath, Chatterton, Wilkinson, Sturgess, Rodd, Dolly, Weatherby, Murphy, Pozniak, Booth, Leatherbarrow, Sugdale.

Replacements: Nield, Blanchard, Birch, Papworth, James, Walsh, Burrage.

Harlequins

Tries: James, McDuffus
Conversions: Smith 2
Penalties: Smith 2

Sale Sharks
Tries: Sturgess
Penalties: Wilkinson

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