Harlequins shock Springbok-laden Sale in Premiership return

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Martin Landajo of Harlequins takes on the Sale Sharks defence during the Premiership Rugby match at Twickenham Stoop on 14 August 2020.
Martin Landajo of Harlequins takes on the Sale Sharks defence during the Premiership Rugby match at Twickenham Stoop on 14 August 2020.
Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins

Harlequins marked the return of the English Premiership after the coronavirus lockdown with a shock 16-10 win over Sale Sharks that ruined Manu Tuilagi's debut on Friday.

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The Premiership has been in hibernation for five months due to the pandemic and the restart behind closed doors at The Stoop was a predictably scrappy affair.

Sale, who also fielded eight South Africans in their starting line-up, are expected to challenge league leaders Exeter for the title following Tuilagi's arrival from Leicester, but they were outclassed by Harlequins.

Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard said: "[At the] start of the second half we gave Sale a sniff and they're a brilliant team.

"For us to fight back in that next 10-minute window was crucial for us. I was really pleased with the turnaround from that."

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond added: "We gave a silly try away and we missed a kick before half-time.

"That's a 10-point turnaround and we lost by six."

Harlequins, who gave Chris Ashton his first start, were sharper and smarter throughout and piled over for the decisive try through hooker Scott Baldwin in the third quarter.

Flyhalf Marcus Smith kicked three penalties and a conversion and Quins were rarely out of control, pierced only by Byron McGuigan's try as Sale exited half-time with a purpose that then deserted them.

It was a low-quality return to action for the competition, marred by 29 penalties and resembling a pre-season game.

The rivals showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement in different ways, Sale's players wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with 'Rugby against racism' while Quins took a knee as part of a circle.

Four of the Sharks also took a knee after the clubs were given free rein to mark the fight against racism in the way they saw fit.

For all the expectations of Sale's renewed challenge for the Premiership title, it was Quins who made the brighter start and within 20 minutes they had built a lead through two Smith penalties.

Smith's third penalty extended the lead, while Sale fly-half Robert du Preez could only pull a simple chance wide of the right post.

England prop Joe Marler was reprimanded by referee Luke Pearce for his trademark sledging, the official warning "enough commentary Joe, it's winding people up", and Sale took their revenge early in the second half.

An attacking lineout saw Tuilagi act as a decoy and, with acres of space created on the right, wing McGuigan completed a routine finish.

But the comeback was stopped in its tracks in the 57th minute when Baldwin crossed over, with Smith adding the conversion.

The eight South Africans in the Sale starting XV were Coenie Oosthuizen, Akker van der Merwe, Lood de Jager, Jean-Luc du Preez, Jono Ross, Dan du Preez, Faf de Klerk and Robert du Preez

Of the eight, only captain Ross is not a Springbok.

Teams:

Harlequins

15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 James Lang, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler

Substitutions: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Will Evans, 22 Scott Steele, 23 Paul Lasike

Sale Sharks

15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jean-Luc du Preez, 3 Will-Griff John, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen

Substitutes: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Phillips, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Will Cliff, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Denny Solomona

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