Sale Sharks kept alive their hopes of Anglo-Welsh Cup progression after they won the narrowest of contests at already-qualified Harlequins.
Both sides struggled to get their games going in driving wind and rain, and it was fitting that Sale’s Will Addison, outstanding throughout, won the game for the Sharks with a last-gasp penalty.
Sale must now keep their fingers crossed other results go their way this weekend, but they could do no more after holding their nerve in West London.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 3, 2017
Neil Briggs scored the only try of the first half for Sale, while Harlequins responded with a penalty score after the break but a patchy game was decided on 77 minutes by the boot of Addison.
Back-to-back wins at the AJ Bell Stadium have helped lift spirits at Sale after ten straight losses to end 2016 and begin the New Year, and so it proved at the Stoop as Sale dominated territory and possession early on.
In appalling first-half conditions, Addison handed Sale the lead after just two minutes from the kicking tee after Harlequins were adjudged to have strayed offside.
Ruaridh Jackson levelled things for Harlequins with a penalty of his own on 20 minutes and should have fired the home side in front five minutes later, but this time was wayward.
Harlequins have lost just once at the Stoop this year – to Edinburgh in the European Rugby Challenge Cup – and they displayed all of their home tenacity to fend off the Sharks.
However, Quins’ job was made harder on 34 minutes as veteran Welsh prop Adam Jones was needlessly sent to the sin-bin after taking a Sale jumper out at the line-out.
And the error of judgement proved costly for Harlequins as Briggs rumbled over from the ensuing rolling maul as the visitors took a decisive lead in the fixture – with Addison adding the extras for Sale.
Harlequins were up against it in the opening minutes of the second half and were forced to defend their try-line bravely as Sale once again dominated territory.
But they improved as the half wore on and after the sin-binning of Sale prop Brian Mujati for a high tackle, Harlequins started to make their numerical advantage count.
Quins finally pulled themselves level after 57 minutes as referee Matthew O’Grady was left no alternative but to award the home team a penalty try after Sale were penalised four times in quick succession at the scrum, with Jackson adding the extras.
With 14 minutes remaining Sale were once again enjoying territory into the Quins’ 22 but with pressure building, veteran flanker Magnus Lund was penalised at the breakdown and the home side were able to relieve the pressure.
And just four minutes later Addison thought he was away to score a try for the Sharks, but after charging down a Jackson clearance, he knocked-on when clean through.
Addison was not to be denied though, and with just three minutes remaining he struck over a crucial penalty to win the game after Quins had been penalised at scrum time.
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) February 3, 2017