Premiership: Sale Sharks win wet-weather clash with Harlequins while London Irish ease past Bristol Bears

Sale Sharks scoring try Credit: Alamy
Sale Sharks scoring try Credit: Alamy

High-flying Sale Sharks mastered the difficult weather conditions as they claimed a 24-16 victory over Harlequins in the Premiership on Sunday.

The bonus-point result takes them 12 points clear of third placed Quins as Alex Sanderson’s men backed up last week’s impressive win over Leicester Tigers.

Crossings from Tom O’Flaherty, Rob du Preez, Akker van der Merwe and Cobus Wiese were backed up by two conversions from Du Preez in a deserved win.

Joe Marchant and Nick David went over for Harlequins as they were well beaten by the Premiership’s second-placed outfit on a rain soaked Stoop surface.

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The victory was bittersweet for Sale though as England flanker Tom Curry was forced off with a hamstring injury, which will concern Steve Borthwick.

Soon after the back-row was replaced, Sale engineered their first try when Luke James injected pace as the backs were launched off a line-out and having used his footwork to create space O’Flaherty was provided with a simple finish.

Manu Tuilagi was the next to pierce the home defence but just as it appeared Quins had survived, Ben Curry won a turnover that Sam James used to grubber ahead for Du Preez to score.

Tommy Allan’s two penalties kept Harlequins in touch but just as they were looking to finish a one-sided first half with a flourish, their Italian fly-half failed to find touch with a penalty.

Cadan Murley then kicked the ball out on the full and as the interval neared the aspiring England wing appeared to be in growing discomfort, clutching his chest and coughing.

Quins were in need of inspiration to haul themselves back into contention and it came through Joe Marchant, who pounced when Luke James failed to deal with an Allan crossfield kick and easily won the race to the line.

It proved to be only a fleeting moment of defiance, however, as Sale responded by building pressure on the home 22 and in the 54th minute they were over for their third try when a line-out drive was finished by Van der Merwe.

Allan came off worst in a collision from Tuilagi and was carried off on a stretcher after receiving treatment for several minutes.

Sale quickly resumed battering at the door and once more their pack outmuscled the hosts with Wiese claiming the final drive to secure the bonus point.

Another try looked to be coming but Quins broke from their half through Danny Care and several phases later David ran a slick line to carry him over, but the conversion was missed and the Sharks ran down the clock.

London Irish get the better of Bristol

Bristol‘s miserable season continued with a 23-7 defeat at London Irish after another poor performance which leaves them rooted to the bottom of the Premiership.

They are now two points adrift of 10th-placed Bath.

Irish had far more industry and attacking ideas to their game and were rewarded with tries from Benhard van Rensburg and Ben White. Rory Jennings converted both and added three penalties.

A try from Harry Thacker converted by AJ MacGinty was Bristol’s sole response.

Prior to kick-off, Irish suffered a big blow when talisman Paddy Jackson failed a fitness test to withdraw with a calf injury. Jennings stepped up from the bench to replace him at fly-half.

It was Jennings who had the first opportunity for points and he made no mistake with a 30 metre penalty to give his side an eighth-minute lead.

That penalty was the only score of a dour opening 19 minutes, which saw neither side threaten the try-line with their attacks blunted by the wet conditions.

With their first attack, Bristol were on the try-scoring sheet when bursts by Ellis Genge and Semi Radradra put the home defence on the back foot and this enabled Thacker to slip away from a maul and race over unopposed.

Irish responded with an excellent try. Scrum-half White quickly took a penalty in the opposition 22 to leave their opponents floundering and when the ball was recycled, skilful handling created the space for Van Rensburg to slide over in the corner.

Jennings converted from the touchline and then had two opportunities to kick penalties from virtually the same position. On both occasions Irish chose attacking line-outs, only to lose both before success came with their third.

They won possession and displayed good ball retention before White made a sharp break. He fed captain Rob Simmons who drove forward with White on hand to pick up and score, with another superb kick from Jennings giving Irish a deserved 17-7 half-time lead.

Within a minute of the restart Jennings kicked another penalty before Bristol suffered two further setbacks in quick succession when they lost backs Gabriel Ibitoye and Noah Heward to injuries.

The penalty from Jennings was the only score of a featureless third quarter as Bristol seemed bereft of ideas as to how they could get back into contention.

Jennings missed with a penalty which would have made it a two-score game but it mattered little as Bristol never looked like clawing back the deficit with Jennings putting the final nail in their coffin by succeeding with his third penalty five minutes from time.

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