Marcus Smith outshines George Ford as Harlequins thump Sale

Marcus Smith outshines George Ford as Harlequins thump Sale
Marcus Smith was instrumental for Harlequins - PA/Bradley Collyer

Harlequins 36 Sale Sharks 3

Steve Borthwick watched on with England’s post-World Cup plans firmly on his mind as Marcus Smith inspired a crushing Quins victory over leaders Sale.

The fly-half also won his personal duel with George Ford to help the Londoners move up to second in the Premiership table.

Smith was outstanding on a cold night in Twickenham, pulling the strings and putting his best foot forward at The Stoop.

With the England No 10 shirt firmly up for grabs for the Six Nations following Owen Farrell’s decision to sit out the championship, Smith certainly nudged Borthwick in his direction.

The 24-year-old is determined to be one of the first names on Borthwick’s teamsheet when he names his first post-World Cup side in February. But, having played so much of the World Cup at full-back, it is the fly-half role he yearns for in the Six Nations.

Ford will also be anxious to grab the opportunity now Farrell has chosen to “prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being” and is unavailable for selection. But Smith was cut above Ford in this game. And he has that three-dimensional positivity which Borthwick’s new England will need.

Not that Smith was looking to highlight his own performance post-match; he was more concerned with the fact Quins got back to winning ways after two successive losses. He said: “The group has had to dig deep the last couple of weeks. Losing to our rivals Sarries at home was painful. We had to get our Premiership campaign back on track.

“The forwards really front up big time and made it easy for us backs to do the rest. The crowd behind us. When they took the three points it was a massive positive for us. We will enjoy this first and then think about Racing next week. We know how physical they can be and how much they enjoy throwing the ball around.”

Quins boss Billy Millard added: “Marcus was excellent again. He, like the other World Cup lads, will admit they have struggled to get back to where they expect to be in terms of performance but he was certainly on it tonight.”

Ford was left well and truly in the shadows by Smith, while Sharks’ saw their sizzling start to the season with six wins from seven games hit a nasty road bump in the shape of Quins.

Smith helped start the rout with a cross-field kick behind the Sale defence helped set up the first try; Sale full-back Joe Carpenter let the ball slip from his grasp and full-back Tyrone Green pounced to capitalise (see video below).

All Sale could muster was a long spell camped on the Quins line before the break, which helped them glean three points from a penalty.

Smith continued where he left off in the second half as Quins put Sale to the sword. A dummy, break and offload to Danny Care sent his England team-mate over the line for the second try (see video below).

Sale lost wing Arron Reed to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on, and could easily have had England lock Jonny Hill shown a yellow card too for his part in a touchline brawl sparked by Chandler Cunningham-South’s hefty tackle and push on Gus Warr.

Quins were unstoppable and cruised to victory. A try from hooker Sam Riley and a brace from Will Joseph completed the rout.

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson, whose side must pick themselves up for the European Cup match with Stade Francais, said: “We are disappointed and humbled. Quins showed their best and we probably showed our worst. It is always tough to lose here as they rub it in your faces here. You have to be right mentally or you’re losing all the battles that matter and have a long ride home licking your wounds.”