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    Sale cement top-two spot with win at Harlequins

    Rob du Preez is the leading points scorer in the Premiership this season, taking his tally to 133
    Harlequins (6) 16
    Tries: Marchant, David Pens: Allan 2
    Sale (14) 24
    Tries: O’Flaherty, R du Preez, Van der Merwe, Wiese Cons: R Du Preez 2

    Sale cemented their top-two spot in the Premiership with a hard-fought bonus point win at third-placed Harlequins.

    Tom O’Flaherty and Rob du Preez cut through the Quins defence to help the Sharks to a 14-6 half-time lead, with two Tomasso Allen penalties in reply.

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

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

    Second-placed Sale are now 12 points ahead of Harlequins, with a third straight league defeat leaving the south-west London club above Gloucester on points scored.

    Meanwhile, Sharks flanker Tom Curry will have given new England head coach Steve Borthwick an injury scare ahead of the upcoming Six Nations when he limped off in the 16th minute after his right leg was trapped awkwardly during a tackle by Wilco Louw.

    Wet weather at the Twickenham Stoop made playing conditions difficult but, after an early Allan penalty, Sale’s backs spread the ball across the field and Luke James opened up space nicely for O’Flaherty to get the game’s first try in the 18th minute.

    Du Preez grabbed the second six minutes later when he touched down a low kick through by Sam James.

    Quins got back in the game 67 seconds after the restart when the Sharks defence failed to deal with a high kick from Allan and Marchant gathered and scampered forward to dive over in the left-hand corner.

    Allan failed to add the extras and Sale restored their eight-point lead 11 minutes later when Van Der Merwe dabbed down.

    Italy international Allan was then stretchered off following a clash of heads with Manu Tuilagi before Sale’s fourth score from Wiese came following more strong work by their forward pack.

    David wriggled through to score to set up an interesting final five minutes but Will Edwards missed the resulting conversion, meaning Quins failed to pick up a losing bonus point.

    With Sale now nine points behind runaway leaders Saracens, the congested nature of the Premiership table is underlined by Quins being just five points ahead of ninth-placed London Irish after the Exiles beat Bristol Bears.

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

    Replacements: Musk, Els, Kerrod, Matthews, Lawday, Gjaltema, Edwards, Beard.

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

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

    Referee: Wayne Barnes

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