How did it go down?
Harlequins have had a relatively disappointing start to the season so far and they looked determined to set that right during the opening stages of this Friday night match up. The scoring started in the 11th minute when Danny Care collected the ball from the base of a ruck and chipped into the corner, with the returning Tim Visser collecting to go over in what was a reassuring start for the hosts.
Harlequins looked pumped up and built on their lead with two quickfire tries on the 20th and 23rd minutes. Youngster Ben Curry was unable to stop Joe Marler from close range before Joe Marchant charged down Sam James and fell on the loose ball to put Harlequins three tries up. Sale struck back before half-time as Mike Haley embarked on a mazy run through the Harlequins midfield, before sliding in under the posts to score a try that was well worth a second watch. Marcus Smith steadied the ship for Quins by managing to slot penalties in the 37th and 40th minutes to mitigate the advantage that Sale had gained before the interval.
The scoring resumed in the 54th minute of the second half when Sale prop Halani ‘Aulika crashed over from close range. Ten minutes later Sam James intercepted Danny Care before Rob Webber squeezed over to put Sale within nine points with just under ten minutes to go. The fightback was short-lived however as Marland Yarde managed to sneak outside the Sharks’ drift defence before cutting back in under the posts to round up what was in the end a comfortable win for the Harlequins.
How did that prediction go Ed?
Not too bad if I don’t say so! Harlequins’ backs did fire in the end as wings Yarde and Visser scored three tries between them, allowing Harlequins to upset the form book and record a solid victory which was much needed.
So what did we learn?
The Marcus Smith hype train continues – Friday was not the night for it to go off the rails as Smith ran the game magnificently, showing an impressive array of tactical kicking to complement his already established play making skills. The impressive thing about Smith’s recent form has been how comfortable he is controlling proceedings from fly-half, which is a rare trait in such a young player.
Harlequins take the pressure off with an important win – Harlequins have remained true to historic form by grabbing a victory that eases concerns about their early season form. The result is a warning shot that the Londoners cannot be written off just yet, however they will need to build upon it with further victories before they can be talked about as one of the more competitive teams in the league.
An outsider for the England 15 shirt? It may not have been a dominant performance, but Mike Haley’s individual try was a great reminder that he remains arguably the most dangerous attacking fullback in the league (with the probable exception of Leicester’s Tulisa Vean’iu). He has been in and around England squads in the past and while the obvious favorites to fill Mike Brown’s shirt remain insiders Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson it will be interesting to see if Eddie Jones names a bolter for his squad for the Autumn Tests.