By Harley Quin
May 5 2012
With so much to play for, Quins travelled North to face Sale playing their final game at Edgeley Park, in front of their highest home crowd of the season. They held their nerve to win a historic victory and ensure top spot in the league for the first time in their history.
There was much discussion Pre-match about the fact that the home team had rested players in order to gain a payout for playing sufficient English eligible players during the season.
However, any thoughts that Sale would just go throughout the motions were quickly dispelled. Winger Cueto burst through from the half way line in the first minute and his kick ahead looked to have set up the first score for the home team, but Mike Brown was judged to have been impeded by Addison in the chase to the line.
Another fine break by Myall almost set up Bordill, but the flanker was held up over the line by some great last ditch defence. Brown was injured in the action, but resumed after treatment.
In between those two escapes, Nick Evans should actually have given Quins the lead, when he missed a regulation penalty from 30 metres out after only six minutes.
With a quarter of the match gone the visitors finally produced some top of the table form. A flurry of attacking moves was finally rewarded when Danny Care burrowed over under the posts. The conversion gave Quins the lead after 22 minutes.
It ignited the game and after a bout of 'handbags' at a scrum, Quins attacked again but Brown knocked on while being tackled, 5 metres from the line. A penalty at the scrum cleared the danger.
The next Sale attack resulted in another penalty for the home side at the breakdown. Debutant fly half Tommy Bell made no mistake and reduced the arrears to four points.
Just when it looked like that was the end of the scoring in the first stanza - the game mired in midfield, Sales conceded a penalty at a scrum and this time the Kiwi made no mistake with two minutes left to the interval.
Incredibly, there was time for another Quins attack and a wonderful pass from Evans opened Sale up and Mike Brown fought off a tackle to score in the corner. The conversion drifted wide, but Quins could be well pleased with a 15-3 lead to take into the second half.
The visitors grabbed the initiative to start the second half. An Evans penalty, followed by a great line out catch by Robshaw, had Quins attacking in the 22. Playing advantage, Quins almost scored but knocked on. Robshaw asked his kicker to add three points and he duly obliged.
At this stage Harlequins were in rampant mood and were camped in the Sales 22. When Sale conceded a free kick Robshaw elected for another scrum. When Sale conceded a penalty, this time Evans was asked to extend the lead and once again the Kiwi slotted the kick.
Chasing the game, Sale tried to rally. Forgoing a kick at goal they kicked for the corner. Following the line out a massive bout of 'handbags' saw the referee in long discussions with the linesman but nothing happened except another line out. However, Easter was yellow carded for dragging down the Sale catcher. It was pretty obvious and, after the fisticuffs, somewhat inevitable.
Within a minute Sale had their first try of the game, a wonderful solo effort by Will Addison, who broke through from the halfway line, beating several would be tacklers to score under the posts. As the kick was taken, Danny Care left the field holding his shoulder to be replaced by Dickson.
Now it was Sale's turn to press. They threw everything at the Londoners. Injuries were almost inevitable, given the fury of the assault. Fa'asavalu overcame one knock down, but eventually had to be replaced by Tom Guest. No further damage came from the sin bin as Easter returned to the fray.
Quins were reallly hanging on and the scores from elsewhere meant that they had to win to avoid finishing third. The next score would be crucial. Thankfully, it came to the visitors. Having embarked on a rambling, many phase, progress up the field Quins were awarded a penalty for offside and with 7 minutes to go Evans re-established a fourteen point lead.
From the kick off Quins came storming back again, with forward led driving play close to the line, before a penalty finally cleared the danger. Another Sale penalty drove them into the Quins 22, but to no avail. Evans kicked the ball off the field as the travelling Quins fans counted down the clock.
It was over! Harlequins top the division for the first time in their history (worth saying again!) and in doing so earn a home semi-final against Northampton next Saturday. Details of the timings were due at 6pm today. Ticket details should also be on the official website.
After the game Conor said that it "it achieved nothing, but it's a nice little thing to have done for every one involved at the Club." He also confrmed that nobody had picked up any injuries, just the usual bumps and bruises from a physical encounter.
The end of an emotion day for your writer. On to the Stoop.....
15. Mike Brown 14. Tom Williams 13. George Lowe 12. Jordan Turner-Hall 11. Sam Smith 10. Nick Evans 9. Danny Care (Dickson 58 mins) 1. Joe Marler 2. Joe Gray (Buchanan 61 mins) 3. James Johnston 4. Olly Kohn 5. George Robson 6. Maurie Fa’asavalu (Guest 62 mins) 7. Chris Robshaw (C) 8. Nick Easter
16. Rob Buchanan (Gray 61 mins) 17. Mark Lambert 18. Will Collier 19. Tomas Vallejos 20. Tom Guest ( Fa'asavalu 62 mins) 21. Karl Dickson (Care 58 mins) 22. Rory Clegg 23. Matt Hopper
15.Rob Miller, 14.Tom Brady, 13.Will Addison, 12.Luther Burrell, 11.Mark Cueto, 10.Tommy Bell, 9.Scott Mathie (Cliff 72 mins), 1.Lee Imiolek (Harrison 52 mins), 2.Marc Jones (Ward 40 mins), 3.Henry Thomas, 4.Kearnan Myall, 5.Tom Holmes, 6.Will Bordill (Taylor 55mins) 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Mark Easter.
16.Tommy Taylor (for Bordill 55 mins), 17. Ross Harrison(for Imiolek 52 mins) 18.Joe Ward (for Jones 40mins), 19.Billy Emerson, 20.Jordan Davies, 21.Will Cliff (for Mathie 72 mins), 22.Iain Thornley, 23.Charlie Amesbury.