Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond had no qualms with his side’s comprehensive defeat to table-topping Harlequins last night – despite taking an early lead.
Late replacement Cameron Shepherd gaves the Sharks hope of extending their winning run to five, but Aviva Premiership leaders Quins ran out worthy winners.
However, Sale grabbed two consolation tries to take it to a respectable 30-21, but Diamond admitted they were outclassed on the night.
“Harlequins disrupted the game plan, they are fantastic at what they do so we’ve got no qualms and we were beaten by the better side,” said Diamond.
“Harlequins are a good side and we know they’ve got a good away record.
“We thought we could match that but obviously the gulf in the two sides was shown in the first half – we’ll lick our wounds and get on with it.”
A Quins victory ended Sale’s four-game winning run – however, it looked like a different outcome was on the cards when Shepherd went over after 70 seconds.
Danny Cipriani converted to give the bottom-placed side a seven-point lead, but from then on it was all one-way traffic for the men from Twickenham Stoop.
Ben Botica fired over penalties in the eighth and 21st minute to reduce the arrears before Harlequins stalwart Tom Williams took advantage of a Sammy Tuitupou sin-binning to go over.
Botica duly added the points to take the half-time score to 7-13 before adding a penalty three minutes after the break to put daylight between the sides.
Despite Quins flanker Maurie Fa’asavalau being sin-binned on 56 minutes, Sale could not take advantage, instead falling further behind nine minutes later through a Nick Easter try.
The Kiwi fly-half converted and soon found himself back on kicking duty on 70 minutes as Charlie Matthews capped off an excellent game for the Harlequins.
And despite consolation tries from Richie Vernon and Tuitupou – both converted by Cipriani – overturning a 23-point gap was beyond the Sharks.
Diamond’s men travel to high-flying Leicester Tigers next Saturday knowing that depending on London Welsh and London Irish’s performances over the weekend, they can still catch both Exile sides.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks.