Harlequins held off a dramatic late fightback to see off Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium and boost their hopes of European Rugby Champions Cup qualification.
Quins scored four first-half tries courtesy of Charlie Walker, Chris Robshaw, Marland Yarde and Danny Care, as the visitors become the first side to beat Sale at home in Aviva Premiership Rugby in 2015.
Two Tom Arscott scores and a late Mark Cueto try threatened an unlikely draw for the Sharks but two missed conversions from Joe Ford proved costly the visitors held on and move to within one point of Sale in seventh – and a potential European play-off.
Sale made five changes to their starting line-up as they looked to keep their top-six hopes alive, while Harlequins made two changes to the side which beat Gloucester Rugby last time out, with captain Joe Marler a late withdrawal – Mark Lambert replacing him.
Quins dominated the early exchanges and took the lead after five minutes through Walker. Harry Sloan charged down Mike Haley’s clearing kick and Walker took advantage to score, though Nick Evans missed the conversion.
Harlequins’ defence held up well as Sale looked to work their way back into the game but the Sharks slowly began to step up their intensity and when Quins were penalised for straying offside, Danny Cipriani converted the penalty to reduce the arrears to 5-3 on 20 minutes.
Sale’s joy was short-lived, though, as two quick-fire tries put Harlequins in control.
First, the visitors capitalised on another charge down and Nick Easter passed to Care, who found Robshaw for the converted try.
Three minutes later Yarde, who began the phase from the restart, finished off a fine team try on the right wing to make it 17-3. Evans missed the extras.
The Sharks reduced the deficit by three on 33 minutes when Evans was penalised for a high tackle and Cipriani converted, but Quins added the bonus-point score through Care on the stroke of half-time when the scrum-half scampered his way down the blindside and scored.
The visitors picked up where they left off after the break and Evans made it 25-6 three minutes after the restart with a penalty.
But the Sharks hit back and when Dave Ward was shown a yellow card for pulling down a Sale maul, the hosts made the numerical advantage count as replacement Arscott went over on the left wing – his 11th try of the campaign. Cipriani added the extras.
Arscott then scored his second try seven minutes from the end, after Sam Tuitupou created the gap inside the 22, but replacement fly-half Ford missed the conversion.
Two minutes later, Sale raced upfield and Cueto, who will retire at the end of the season, scored to make it 25-23.
That left Ford with a conversion to draw the scores level but he sent the kick narrowly wide as Harlequins took maximum points and Sale had to settle for just one.
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