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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Harlequins escape the jaws of Sale and secure a win at the Twickenham Stoop

Heading into the weekend Harlequins lay 7th in the Rugby Union Premiership Table, 3 places and 9 points above today’s visitors. Sale Sharks were looking to end their own run of 8 straight losses across all competitions; Harlequins determined to keep their 100% home win rate.

Chris Robshaw, Jamie Roberts, Jack Clifford and George Merrick limped from the battlefield last week in their New Year’s Day away defeat to Worcester Warriors, securing only a single losing bonus point. Merrick available for today’s game.

Joe Marler failed a late fitness test after warming up on the pitch just minutes before kick off. Owen Evans was quickly brought on in his place with Adam Jones quickly moved from coach to the bench.

For their first home game of 2017, Harlequins were greeted with an overcast sky but a buoyant fan base.

A quick start and the hosts found themselves defending their line within the opening minute. Calmly the ball was shielded and kicked into touch for a Sale line-out just outside the hosts’ 22. The visitors retained possession and a knock-on whilst gathering a loose ball by Harlequins handed the first scrum of the game to Sale.

The visitors handled the situation well and with quick passing and clever hands they penetrated the Quins’ defence. The visitors were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and after just 4 minutes the hosts found themselves behind: Harlequins 0 – 3 Sale Sharks.

The ball was kicked long for the re-start and a quick follow up by the hosts kept Sale in the opposition 22. Cheers all round as Adam Jones, unexpectedly in the side this afternoon, ran out along the edge of the pitch to warm up.

Scrum to Quins. They passed the ball to the middle of the pitch having been awarded advantage and Nick Evans, only recently returning from injury, found himself on the end of a thumping tackle. He left the field for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) after 6 minutes. Swiel came on in his place.

Harlequins kicked to the corner for a line-out instead of going for the posts and despite an awkward throw, Quins retained possession. They edged onwards however Sale earned a scrum in front of their own posts.

More injury worries for the hosts as Collier was assisted from the field (later confirmed as a broken ankle), Sinckler on as his replacement with just 7 minutes gone from the game.

Sale found touch with their clearing kick but Matthews did well to secure the line-out ball. Sale were quick up in defence and forced the hosts back into their own half.

After another line-out secured by the hosts, the ball found Walker on the wing however he was unceremoniously dragged into touch. Penalty to the hosts and a well-placed kick by Swiel handed the hosts an attacking line-out inside the 22. Wallace secured the ball on this occasion and passed back to Care who was immediately engulfed.

Another penalty awarded and this time Swiel went for the points in an attempt to level the scores: Harlequins 3 – 3 Sale Sharks after 10 minutes.

The re-start ball was gathered well by Yarde. He sent it back to Sale who then returned the favour.
Penalty to the visitors who once again pulled ahead: Harlequins 3 – 6 Sale Sharks.

Swiel sent the ball into the 22; Sale sent the ball high and Brown was ever-ready to gather. The hosts decided to keep ball in hand and in doing so Brown earned his team an advantage. The referee, JP Doyle, then awarded the penalty and Swiel lined up the posts and once again drew Quins level: Harlequins 6 – 6 Sale Sharks. 16 minutes gone.

Word then came through that Evans was not returning to the pitch this game.

Walker was superb on the wing and kicked for a chase. Sale gathered in time but then in an attempt to keep momentum going rushed their pass and the ball strayed into touch.

Harlequins secured line-out ball, formed a maul then kicked high. Sale gathered then kicked returning possession to the hosts. Quins attempted to run through the defence but without an opening they again were forced to put boot to ball. Sale came again.

Danger then came from Sale’s Addison who passed to Solomona, but a strong tackle halted play in its tracks and held it long enough for help to arrive and slow-up the game. The visitors thought they had scored the first try of the game until the referee blew for offside.

Owen Evans was then replaced by Adam Jones – a rousing cheer erupted from the stands as the Welsh wonder joined the fray. This was necessitated by the scrum just 5 metres from their own line. Before the ball was even freed by Captain Care, a penalty was awarded to Sale and they kicked for a line-out. The visitors could not catch the ball cleanly, Quins stole possession and found touch on their own 22.

Sale delivered the ball and this time retained possession. Superb tackle by Quins no. 4 George Merrick slowed the game and the hosts won turnover ball. They kicked for touch but the ball failed to bounce before crossing the line, taking play back.

The visitors acted quickly and again rushed their passes. The ball was fumbled following an attempt at an intercept by Brown, however they crossed the try-line. Time for the TMO (television match official) to make a decision. Try awarded to Solomona. Conversion added: Harlequins 6 – 13 Sale Sharks after 27 minutes.

The re-start ball was gathered by Sale who kicked high and into the arms of Brown. Quins attempted to run the ball out of their own half and were awarded a penalty as the opposition failed to release a tackled player (Sinckler).

Swiel found touch on the opposition 22 for a line-out. Buchanan delivered. They formed a maul. Captain Care was attempting to play the referee, pointing out perceived penalties in the maul. During this time, however, Sale were able to steal possession but then once again fumbled and knocked-on.

Care fed the ball, Chisholm retrieved, passed back to the Captain.

The support from the stands was deafening at times as the hosts pushed ever closer to the try-line. Sale managed to slow the pace and it was time for the forwards to grab and drive. The referee blew for a penalty which was taken quickly. Quins crossed the whitewash but the ball was deemed to have been held-up. 5 metre scrum.

Care once again fed. The scrum moved forward and the referee again penalised Sale.

Another scrum to the hosts as ‘Come On You Quins’ resonated around the Twickenham Stoop.

The ball was fed and Merrick made a break for it, losing the ball under tackle. Sale gathered and found touch.

Buchanan delivered line-out ball to Matthews; Adam Jones made a dent in the defence; Quins recycled well and play made its way from one wing to the other.

A succession of passes on the run saw Walker cross for the try, converted by Swiel: Harlequins 13 – 13 Sale Sharks with 4 minutes left of the first half.

Yarde again gathered the restart ball securely but was then engulfed in a tackle. A ruck formed and the ball was kicked high. Swiel claimed the ball, spotted a gap and ran the length of the pitch. He converted his own try: Harlequins 20 – 13 Sale Sharks on 38 minutes.

The visitors kicked long hoping to keep pressure on the hosts who placed the ball in touch just inside their own half. Sale secured line-out ball but quick defence saw the hosts tackle and turnover possession.

The clock counted down and Care retrieved the ball from the ruck, kicking very gently into touch so as not to cause injury to anyone immediately sat in the stands.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 20 – 13 Sale Sharks

Harlequins kicked off the second half and the ball was gathered well by Sale’s captain Beaumont.

After a couple of passages of play they opted to kick but the ball landed safely in the arms of Swiel who opted to run. The ball made it out to the wing where it was turned over by the visitors.

Territorial gains and losses were negligible until Quins earned a penalty and Swiel lined up the posts, opening the scoring of the second half: Harlequins 23 – 13 Sale Sharks on 44 minutes.

Merrick gathered the restart ball; Care box-kicked from the ruck. Sale claimed possession and kicked for territory, finding touch inside the hosts’ 22. Matthews secured the ball for Quins and Care again cleared his lines, finding touch.

Sale won the impending line-out and formed a maul. They then broke away and Ward stole possession only for the referee to return play back to the wing following an infringement. Sale opted for another line-out, formed a maul and opted for a grab-and-drive approach. Quins momentarily pushed the opposition back.

Sale were not perturbed and went for a direct attack down the middle. Quins fell for this tactic, leaving the wings undefended. Sale’s McGuigan crossed for an unhindered try; Addison slicing the ball wide of the posts: Harlequins 23 – 18 Sale Sharks after 50 minutes.

Replacements started for Sale as the captain Beaumont left the field for Ben Curry.

Harlequins sent the ball deep into Sale’s territory before they returned possession. Brown gathered the high ball well and feigned to kick before running with the ball and finding a route through the defence.

Penalty to the hosts and Swiel increased the lead to 8 points: Harlequins 26 – 18 Sale Sharks after 53 minutes.

The hosts then opted to run the ball from deep before forcing a high ball. Sale gathered but the defence immediately put pressure on the visitors. Line-out to Quins inside their own half.

Merrick claimed the ball; a maul formed before Care was forced to kick. Sale gathered it well but were then immediately tackled. They held the ball in the ruck; kicked high but Wallace claimed the ball.

Brown then attempted to place the ball behind his opposite number but it landed safely in Haley’s hands.

Sale kicked the ball back and Sinckler found a way through. Quick hands saw Quins just metres from the try-line but just unable to cross it.

The hosts then found themselves under pressure.

Aluika made way for Longbottom in another Sale replacement after 58 minutes.

Sale secured line-out ball on the hosts’ 22. The formed a rolling maul then released the centres. Strong defence kept Sale on the 22 and Merrick put in a superb tackle and earned a penalty. TMO was again called into play, this time analysing a suspected dangerous tackle from Swiel. The penalty was reversed but no card shown.

As Addison lined up the posts for Sale, Briggs, Mills and Phillips replaced Webber, Ostrikov and Mitchell in a triple substitution for the visitors.

Harlequins 26 – 21 Sale Sharks after 60 minutes.

Brown claimed another high ball for the hosts but they were pushed back into their own half. They attempted to keep ball in hand and a knock-on handed a scrum to the visitors.

Wallace left the pitch to applause as Naoupu replaced him in an HIA (head injury assessment) for Quins.

Sale did not place the ball well allowing Care to steal possession for the hosts. However it was Sale who were awarded another scrum. Care was again looking to show up his opposite number and tackled him the moment the ball was released.

A deemed ‘nudge’ on Sale earned the visitors a penalty and they kicked for a line-out knowing a try would draw them level. They sent the ball to the front of the line to secure possession. A maul formed before the ball was distributed to the forwards. Penalty to Quins as Sale were holding on to the ball under tackle.

They kicked for a line-out as Sale replaced Harrison with Flynn on 67th minute.

Buchanan found Matthews and Care sent the ball deep into opposition territory; they returned the ball but kicked too long allowing a simple tap down behind the line for a 22 drop-out. The next phase of play was the similar to the last as Sale again sent the ball long, this time rolling dead.

Care was then replaced by Dickson after 69 minutes.

Scrum to Quins who secured possession and made it into the 22.

More replacements for the hosts as Marchant made way for Hopper.

Sale were awarded a scrum for a knock-on. 10 minutes left to play.

Quins completely dominated the scrum and earned their own put-in. Dickson fed; the scrum was turned and re-set. Dickson fed again; the scrum was determined and Harlequins earned a penalty.

Swiel pointed to the posts: success with the boot would secure an 8 point lead taking it past a converted try. The replacement fly-half was on form: Harlequins 29 – 21 Sale Sharks with 6 minutes remaining.

An announcement was then made confirming Wallace was permanently off for the rest of the game.

Quins claimed the ball well on the restart but were penalised. Sale placed the ball in touch for a line-out just outside the hosts’ 22. They secured the ball and opted to run with fast and accurate passing.

They earned advantage allowing for a cross-field kick which paid off as Solomona gathered and crossed the whitewash. They failed to add the conversion: Harlequins 29 – 26 Sale Sharks with less than 3 minutes remaining.

Sale gathered the restart ball before box-kicking into Harlequins’ arms. The home fans were crying out for them to keep ball in hand but it was kicked into the waiting arms of Sale. The ball came back and Dickson kicked again from the ruck. With 30 seconds left Sale lost possession whilst making strides along the wing.

Quins opted to grab and drive. In an attempt to help the team, the fans counted down the last 10 seconds in an audible plea for them to keep hold of the ball for that time. Down to zero and the ball was kicked out of play to the relief of all Harlequins supporters.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 29 – 26 Sale Sharks

Attendance: 14,148

15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Joe Marchant, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care ©
1 Joe Marler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 3 Will Collier, 4 George Merrick, 5 Charlie Matthews, 6 Luke Wallace, 7 Dave Ward, 8 James Chisholm
16 Joe Gray, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Stan South, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Matt Hopper

Sale Sharks
15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Will Addison, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Sam James, 9 James Mitchell
1 Ross Harrison, 2 Rob Webber, 3 Halani Aulika, 4 Bryn Evans, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 6 Cameron Neild, 7 TJ Ioane, 8 Josh Beaumont ©

16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 AJ Macginty, 23 Josh Charnley
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 11:02 pm  

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