Second-half scores from Luke Wallace and Jack Clifford helped to lift the gloom over the Twickenham Stoop as Harlequins strolled to a comfortable 24-3 Aviva Premiership victory over Sale Sharks.
The hosts were not at their fluent best but a strong defensive display, even without England internationals Mike Brown, Joe Marler and Chris Robshaw, guided them to a third league win of the season.
Ben Botica kicked 14 points for the Quins with Sale’s sole tally coming from the boot of former England international Danny Cipriani.
The hosts had to wait until after the interval to finally make their dominance county as Wallace and replacement Clifford both went over to ensure Conor O’Shea’s side brought a halt to their four-game losing run.
Harlequins applied the early pressure and captain Nick Easter went close to scoring the first try after three minutes, but a TMO decision showed the ball was held up brilliantly by Sale scrum-half Dwayne Peel.
Sale defended impressively in the scrum but Danny Cipriani’s high tackle on Joe Trayfoot gifted Harlequins a penalty on 18 minutes and Ben Botica duly kicked over the posts for a 3-0 lead.
The visitors began to work their way into the contest and Cipriani atoned for his error, scoring a penalty after Harlequins failed to release the tackled player at the breakdown.
However, Dan Braid left his hands in at the ruck and David Seymour was penalised for going off his feet, allowing Harlequins to take a 9-3 lead into the break with Botica’s second and third successive efforts.
However, it was not all good news for Harlequins. Already burdened with a lengthy list of absentees including captain Chris Robshaw, they witnessed Tom Guest suffer a nasty neck injury and a head wound to Trayfoot, allowing Clifford and George Merrick to enter the action.
Quins’ momentum continued after the break and after switching the ball from right to left, Nick Evans’ cute chipped kick set up Wallace to go over in the corner for the game’s first try on 47 minutes. Botica’s conversion hit the post.
Wallace’s pace then won a penalty when Mark Cueto tackled him off the ball and the all-time Premiership try scorer was fortunate not to be sin-binned, as Botica made it 17-3.
And Clifford, captain of the England U20 side that stormed to the IRB World Junior Championship title this summer, made sure that Harlequins didn’t slip further down the table as he charged down Joe Ford’s kick to storm clear and dive over under the posts with 12 minutes to play.
Botica duly converted, consigning Sale to a first defeat in four matches in all competitions and lifting the Stoop outfit up above their conquered opponents in the table.