Sale survived a second-half fightback to return to winning ways and bring an end to Harlequins’ recent GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP renaissance.
Daniel Larrechea produced a masterful display from fly-half to help ease the Sharks into a 14-3 interval lead but a spirited response from Dean Richards’ men ensured a tense finale.
Three second-half penalties from Adrian Jarvis reduced the gap to just two points before Larrechea’s third penalty of the game put the reigning champions home and dry.
The Frenchman again proved an inspired deputy for England number 10 Charlie Hodgson and his personal 12-point haul ultimately proved crucial.
The much-needed victory was greeted with a huge sigh of relief from director of rugby Phillipe Saint-Andre at the final whistle.
Successive GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP defeats at the hands of Bristol and a miserable home loss to Newcastle last week were bad enough.
The horrendous triple injury blow which has left Hodgson, Jason White and Andrew Sheridan sidelined for the rest of the season served as an altogether more severe blow.
If the loss has raised question marks above Sale’s ability to retain their crown, no-one told Saint-Andre’s players.
They produced a dominant display which ended Quins’ three-match winning streak and included their first try in four matches when Magnus Lund crossed the line in the 22nd minute.
Larrechea’s precision with boot eluded him in the opening exchanges when he sent a penalty wide of the posts and the visitors stole ahead when Jarvis landed a penalty moments soon after.
However, Larrechea was already beginning to stamp his authority on proceedings with some typically astute handling in midfield.
And when he collected possession on the edge of the Harlequins 22 with a quarter of an hour played, he kept his cool to land a beautifully executed drop goal to edge Sale level.
Midway through the half, he edged Sale ahead with another penalty and soon after Saint-Andre was punching the air in delight as his side finally crossed the line.
Poor handling in midfield allowed Lund to collect possession and exploit a gap in the visitors’ rearguard.
A neat offload to centre Lee Thomas kept the move flowing, and an even better return pass to Lund allowed the England international to charge over the line.
The relief around Edgeley Park was understandable – the Sharks had not scored a try since Chris Mayor’s effort against Calvisano in the Heineken Cup on October 27.
Larrechea failed to convert from a difficult angle out wide on the left but he quickly added another penalty to give his side a 14-3 interval advantage.
Harlequins fell well below the standards they had reached in their previous three games but they produced an impressive second-half response.
Jarvis added two penalties to reduce the deficit to five points within 15 minutes of the restart.
The visitors continued to probe and home nerves began to fray when Jarvis landed a penalty from 45 metres with nine minutes remaining to secure his side a bonus point.
That had Sale’s nerves jangling but Larrechea’s fourth goal of the evening sealed victory.