Harlequins 21-9 Sale, Aviva Premiership, February 19
Quins win inspired by Gray and Brown
February 19, 2011
Gray and Brown inspire Quins win
Harlequins made it 10 wins from their last 11 competitive matches with a comfortable 21-9 victory over a limited Sale side in an uninspiring game at the Stoop on Saturday.
Quins were soon 15 points up and Sale never looked like clawing back that early deficit. The Stoop pitch was in poor condition following heavy morning rain and had it been a dry day with a firmer pitch, a heavier defeat for the Sharks may well have ensued.
The home team had the more creative runners, with an impressive performance from Mike Brown at fullback and a good contribution from Rory Clegg, who stood in for the injured Nick Evans at fly-half. Up front, Joe Gray and Chris Robshaw were the pick of a dominant pack.
Harlequins threw away two very early chances of tries. Firstly Ugo Monye, with two unmarked men outside him, selfishly went for the line himself and was tackled and then a certain scoring pass from Brown to Gray went badly astray. However they did take the lead after six minutes when Clegg kicked a simple penalty.
Quins were again narrowly prevented from scoring that elusive opening try when Sale scrum-half Will Cliff raced back to foil a kick-and-chase from Brown but in the 13th minute the try came when Gray went past some indifferent tackling from the visitors for the score which Clegg converted.
Minutes later, Sale were further behind when Brown kicked ahead, collected and scored to put his side 15-0 up at the end of the first quarter. The hosts continued to dominate proceedings but poor line-out work prevented them from building up any sustained pressure from which they could extend their advantage and it was Sale who picked up the next score.
Sale had offered precious little in attack in the first half-hour but suddenly from nowhere Ben Cohen burst away to beat three defenders and with incisive contributions from Sisaro Koyamaibole and Cohen again, the home line was put under some real pressure.
Sale's Charlie Hodgson attempts to offload out of the tackle against Harlequins © Getty Images
Quins' defence held firm so the Sharks' only reward was a simple penalty from Charlie Hodgson. Clegg responded with one for Quins but the outside-half was short with a further attempt to leave Quins 18-3 ahead at the interval.
Hodgson reduced the arrears with a 40-metre penalty early in the second half but again this was soon cancelled out by one from Clegg but the outside-half missed a further opportunity moments later.
Sharks prop Henry Thomas was penalised for a late tackle and this time Quins opted not to kick at goal. They gained a platform in the visitors' 22 but some stout defence from Sale kept Quins out as Gray and Robshaw made strong bursts for the try line.
The game deteriorated greatly as the second half progressed with neither side threatening the whitewash and it was left to Hodgson to have the final say with a 30-metre penalty eight minutes from the end, the only incident of an eminently forgettable half being the late sin-binning of George Lowe and Cohen.
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