Saturday, 7th January 2017 @ 18:00
Harlequins remained unbeaten at home this season after a hard fought 29-26 win over Sale Sharks at The Stoop.
Down 6-13 late in the first half, and with a number of key players being replaced through injury, Harlequins scored twice in a minute to stun Sale and take a lead into the break.
In the second half Tim Swiel would keep the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties (on route to an individual points haul of 24) but league convert Denny Solomona would score late to keep the match close in the final moments.
Harlequins held on as they bounced back from last weekend’s disappointing away loss to record a 29-26 win at The Stoop in front of 14,148 supporters.
Before the match had started Harlequins were forced into a change to the intended line-up, Joe Marler suffered a knock to the calf which meant replacement Owen Evans came in to start and Adam Jones covering loosehead prop from the bench.
Harlequins were soon dealt another two early injury blows but prior to that, went behind. After Will Addison slotted a penalty in front of the sticks to give the visitors the lead.
Nick Evans was forced off early for a HIA after a tackle from Sale's Denny Solomona; Swiel coming on as the early replacement. Tighthead prop Will Collier was also carried off following an injury to the calf and replaced by Sinckler.
After enjoying a spell of possession in the Sale half, Quins were awarded a penalty with Steve Diamond's side offside. Swiel sent over the kick to level the score with just over ten minutes on the clock.
In the early exchanges the match had somewhat of an edge to it, with both sides making big hits.
After the kickers exchanged another pair penalties, Sale set off on the attack and looked to have grabbed the first try of the match.
Working the ball from one wing to the other, Sale had a simple two on one with Rob Webber and Solomona looking to beat Mike Brown and go over. As Webber looked to play in Solomona, his pass had gone forward. No try for Sale and a let off for Harlequins.
Owen Evans, the replacement who had been called up last minute to start was then replaced by Adam Jones due to a shoulder injury. The master of the tighthead was called up for the second time this season to cover loosehead prop position after his 75 minute stint against Northampton Saints earlier this season.
After a Quins infringement at the scrum, Sale kicked for the corner and looked to launch an attack from the line out. Luckily, Charlie Matthews' right palm managed to swat the ball away with Sale on the Harlequins five metre line.
Shortly after, and with Sale playing with an advantage, Addison broke to play in Solomona who dotted down despite a TMO review for a possible forward pass. Addison knocked over the two extras to make the scored 13-6 with 27 minutes played.
Sale's score, however, seemed to revitalise John Kingston's side. A drive from the maul and repeated phases in the 22 almost paid off when Marland Yarde was played in by a quick Danny Care tap and go. Yarde went over but was held up and a five metre scrum was Harlequins'.
Solomona proved his worth in defence shortly after when James Chisholm picked and went from the base of the scrum, but his challenge forced the back row to spill the ball.
Harlequins' pressure would take its toll as the half wound down. From the line out, Harlequins went through the phases before Chisholm broke as Brown, who was played in, made further yards shortly before Charlie Walker dashed over the line in a smart breakaway. Swiel's conversion levelled.
With the half expected to finish all square, Swiel again would score again but this time from both hand and tee. Swiel scooped up the loose ball and broke from inside his own half, not one Sale defender would be able to stop him as his 60 metre dash saw him dive over the line under the post. Another successful kick made the score 20-13 to the Londoners at the break.
With the lights on overhead Swiel kicked another penalty early in the second spell as he was perfect with the boot on the day.
At the other end of the pitch the visitors would turn down a kickable three as they looked to close the gap. Harlequins' defence was strong, and held on for double digit phases, before a skip ball from Johnny Leota found Byron McGuigan unmarked in the corner to score. The conversion was missed but the deficit was closed to 23-18.
Sale could never quite get themselves close enough for the remainder of the match as Danny Care won another cheeky penalty as he passed the ball into a defender retreating a fraction slowly.
Harlequins would have chances to score another try, most notably through a Walker kick and regather that left Care just short of the try line as well as numerous Brown runs from fullback, However it would be their defence that would close out the match for them.
Under pressure in their own half they won a penalty at breakdown to clear, only for the penalty to be reversed after Swiel’s tackle was deemed dangerous.
Chisholm was also penalised for a dangerous tackle in a feisty encounter though he would make swift amends and won a turnover to get his side out of trouble ahead 26-21 with just 15 minutes remaining.
With three props injured in the opening quarter you would expect Harlequins scrum to wilt late in the encounter but the opposite was true. First winning a reset in opposition territory before immediately winning a penalty which Swiel kicked for his 24th point of the afternoon and a 29-26 lead.
With just three minutes remaining Solmona would beautifully gather a cross field kick to cross for his brace and The Stoop faithful would have to sweat out the remaining time ahead by a single score.
Cool heads from the home side held on though and JP Doyle would blow his whistle on proceedings as Harlequins won their tenth straight home match of the season 29-26.
In a tight Aviva Premiership table Harlequins sit 7th, only one point out of fifth but only three points ahead of ninth. The quartered men now return to Europe with a home match against Edinburgh Rugby on Saturday 14th January at The Stoop before an away trip to Paris to play Stade Francais.
Tickets for the home encounter are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.