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Rugby: Premiership: Sale of Harlequins 16-24 secures Sharks’ second-place finish.

With a hard-fought bonus point victory over third-placed Harlequins, Sale secured their spot in the Premiership’s top two.

Rob du Preez and Tom O’Flaherty broke through the Quins’ defense to give the Sharks a 14-6 halftime lead, which was followed by two Tomasso Allen penalties.

Before Akker van der Merwe finished off a driving maul, Joe Marchant crossed to put the hosts three points behind.

Nick David slid over late on for a Quins consolation try, and Cobus Wiese powered over for Sale’s fourth try.

After suffering their third consecutive league defeat, Sale are now 12 points ahead of Harlequins, who are above Gloucester in points scored.

In the meantime, Sharks flanker Tom Curry’s limping off in the 16th minute after his right leg got stuck awkwardly during a tackle by Wilco Louw will have given new England coach Steve Borthwick a scare before the Six Nations.

The wet weather at the Twickenham Stoop made it hard to play, but Sale’s backs spread the ball around the field after an early Allan penalty and Luke James made room for O’Flaherty to score the first try in the 18th minute.

Six minutes later, Du Preez converted Sam James’s through low kick into the goal.

When the Sharks defense failed to stop a high kick from Allan, Quins got back into the game 67 seconds after the restart. Marchant gathered the ball and sprinted forward to score in the left-hand corner.

Sale took an eight-point lead 11 minutes later when Van Der Merwe dabbed down after Allan missed the extra point.

After a head-on collision with Manu Tuilagi, Italy’s Allan was stretchered off, and Sale’s fourth goal came from Wiese after more strong work by their forward pack.

Will Edwards missed the conversion after David wriggled through to score, resulting in Quins’ loss of a bonus point and an interesting final five minutes.

Quins are just five points ahead of ninth-placed London Irish after the Exiles beat Bristol Bears, highlighting the congested nature of the Premiership table with Sale now nine points behind Saracens, the clear leaders.

Tabai Matson, the head coach of the Harlequins, told BBC Radio London:

“For us, this is yet another gut punch. With 15 minutes remaining, we were engaged in combat.

“You must be good at defending if you are not good at attacking. And we didn’t do that enough well.

“I can’t believe that we are still in third place despite having lost three games in a row. We have to get our Premiership season back on track, and the next two games are crucial.”

Alex Sanderson, rugby director for sales, stated on BBC Radio 5 Live:

Smiles were all I could see when I looked around, perhaps because it brought back memories of home.

“The young men were aware of what needed to be done, so we leaned into a territory and kicked battle. The majority of the minor details were correct.

Concerning Tom Curry’s injury: We anticipate a minor hamstring injury.

“On Monday, he will have a scan. Even though these things do not change in a week, I have already instructed him to “get your head on for the Six Nations now.”

Harlequins: David; Bassett, Murley, Marchant, and Esterhuizen; Care, Allan; Walker, Hammond, Baxter, Louw, Herbst, White, Wallace, and Dombrandt (captain)

Replacements: Els, Kerrod, Matthews, Lawday, Gjaltema, Edwards, and Beard are the others.

Sale: James L; O’Flaherty, Reed, S. James, Tuilagi; Warr, R Du Preez; T Curry, B Curry (captain), J-L Du Preez, McIntyre, Van Der Merwe, Schonert, Wiese, Hill, and

Replacements: Carpenter, Thomas, Curtis, Ashman, Rodd, Harper, Beaumont, Ross, and Thomas

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