Tim Visser’s second-half try helped Harlequins to a third Aviva Premiership Rugby win from four as they overcame Sale Sharks dogged display to triumph underneath the Friday night lights at the Twickenham Stoop.
Sale’s streak of winning just one away league game since last November continued but a valiant performance saw them deservedly leave London with a bonus point after a narrow 16-14 loss.
The Sharks dominated up front in the first half but captain Dan Braid’s try following Danny Cipriani’s up-and-under was their only score in a 7-3 half-time lead.
And Quins looked a different side after the break as Visser’s well-taken score, combined with the boot of Nick Evans, helped them into the lead despite Sam James’ try.
Sale did put considerable late pressure on the hosts but when Cipriani’s drop-goal attempt flew wide, Quins had done just enough for the win
With returning England captain Chris Robshaw lining up at blindside flanker for Harlequins, as opposed to his normal No.7 role, the game began scrappily.
And it was Sale that took the lead in the 18th minute as Cipriani put up a menacing high ball that Visser spilt – Sharks captain Braid pouncing on the winger’s error to bundle himself over from five metres out.
Cipriani made no mistake with the extras and the Sale fly-half had the chance to extend his team’s lead from a penalty just inside Quins’ half but slipped on contact and his effort came up short.
It took the hosts 37 minutes to get into Sale’s 22, when Evans’s touch-finder was misjudged by Nev Edwards and Peter Stringer, both making their first starts for the visitors.
From the resulting catch-and-drive, the home side were rewarded with a penalty, which Evans stroked over to make the score 7-3, although the New Zealander missed the chance to reduce the deficit on the stroke of half-time as another penalty attempt flew just wide.
Quins came out firing after the break and they reduced the arrears to one point when Evans made no mistake with a straightforward penalty.
And the hosts took the lead for the first time five minutes later. After a number of phases, Evans saw Visser in acres of space out wide, and the winger spectacularly gathered his fly-half’s cross-field kick to dot down in the corner.
Evans nailed the conversion before extending their advantage in the 54th minute – capitalising on another scrum penalty to put his team nine points ahead.
However the away side bounced back 11 minutes later after an extended spell of pressure, when James muscled his way over the line from a clever Cipriani switch.
Cipriani’s conversion put his team just two points behind but the England fly-half missed a penalty eight minutes from the end before his drop goal attempt flew wide of the left post in time added on as Quins survived.