NEC Harlequins suffered their worse defeat of the season to date at Heywood Road as Sale capitalised on Quins second half errors to give them a comfortable victory. Winger's Jason Robinson and Steve Hanley did the damage scoring all of the home side's five tries between them, with England wing Hanley crossing for a hat-trick. Quins were in touch at half-time trailing by just four points (11-7), but could only manage a single penalty after the break compared to Sale's four tries.
After six minutes the home side took the lead. Quins were adjudged to be holding on to the ball and fly half Charles Hodgson kicked the resulting penalty. A break from hooker Tani Fuga deep into the Sale half, looked like getting Quins back in the game. But a lack of support allowed the hosts to clear their lines. The home side then increased their lead after 18 minutes. From a lineout, a good pass from Hodgson enabled centre Martin Shaw to break through. Jason Robinson was in support and ran in for the try from 30 meters, giving Sale an 8-0 lead.
After 25 minutes Quins opened their account with a cracking try. Captain David Wilson broke out and made 45 metres before off loading to Fuga who passed to Joe Powell who went over for the try. Niall Woods converted just in from touch and the lead had been reduced to just a point. Hodgson hit back with a penalty four minutes later after Quins were penalised for handling in the ruck. Woods then failed with a penalty attempt after 31 minutes making the half-time score 11-7.
Two minutes after the break and Quins were awarded a penalty. Woods made no mistake this time and the lead was again reduced to a single point. Steve Hanley then scored the first of his three tries after 44 minutes. Bryan Redpath broke clear from the base of a scrum and had just Woods to beat. He chipped over the top and Hanley was on hand to gather the loose ball and score. Hodgson missed the conversion, as did Woods with a penalty attempt from the re-start.
A mistake in the Quins back line led to Hanley's second try. He kicked through and comfortably beat Woods for pace, allowing him to pick up and touch the ball down for his second try. This time Hodgson converted giving Sale a lead by 23-10 after 53 minutes. Hanley completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark after another break from Shaw. Niki Little, who had replaced Hodgson, failed to convert but the victory was already assured.
After a drive from the Sale forwards was held up just short of the line, the ball was recycled and Little put Robinson over for his second try with 69 minutes on the clock. Little made amends for his earlier miss and added the two extra points, making the final score 35-10.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.