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Match Reaction: Harlequins 51-23 Sale Sharks

Match Reaction: Harlequins 51-23 Sale Sharks

Paul Gustard got his Harlequins reign off to the perfect start on Saturday with an opening-day bonus-point win over Sale Sharks at Twickenham Stoop.

Harlequins and Sale played out two high-scoring affairs last season and this Round 1 match was no different, with Ben Tapuai scoring a debut double and Nathan Earle grabbing one try in his first competitive game.

Sale scored first-half tries through AJ MacGinty and Marland Yarde but were undone in the second period through scores for Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant and Max Crumpton.

MAN OF THE MATCH

In truth you could have picked from a dozen Harlequins for the man-of-the-match award but it was Smith who won the plaudits for a magnificent 26-point display.

Smith was superb from the tee, took his try well and was excellent kicking out of hand, his first-half chip eventually resulting in Harlequins’ first try.

TRY OF THE MATCH

Yarde’s first-half score on his return to the Stoop was a contender but try of the match has to go to Earle after Aaron Morris’ scorching break.

Playing at full-back, Morris took a quick lineout from Danny Care and made an arcing outside break through the Sale defence before a pass at pace found Earle in the corner.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

You just knew he would score. Yarde was on the end of some robust challenges from his former teammates but set the turf alight with his first-half try.

Taking a pass inside the Sale half, Yarde accelerated down the left, cut inside and offloaded to Will Cliff, who returned the favour to give Yarde a 30-metre run to the posts.

WHAT THEY SAID

Sharks’ Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said after the game: “We paid the penalty for making mistakes. Miss tackles against a quality side like Quins as we did and you get punished.

“We’re better than that, but there are no harsh words. We’ll review the game next week and be ready to face Worcester on the Sunday afternoon.”

Harlequins debutant Earle commented: “It was down to Aaron (Morris), I just had to run it in! It was wicked to get a try on debut in front of a home crowd, I couldn’t have asked for much more from today really.

“The team spirit is wicked. I couldn’t be happier and wins breed a good mentality within the team and really drive it on this season.”

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