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Harlequins seal top spot
24-10 win at Sale secures a home semi-final in the play-offs
Harlequins secured top spot in the Aviva Premiership table with a 24-10 triumph over Sale in the Sharks' last ever game at Edgeley Park.
England internationals Danny Care and Mike Brown went over in the first half as Quins established a 15-3 advantage at the interval, with Nick Evans adding a conversion and a penalty.
Tommy Bell responded for Sale with a penalty before two second half Evans' three-pointers extended the visitors' advantage.
Will Addison crossed for the Sharks to give them hope, but a further penalty sealed the win for Harlequins and a home semi-final with Northampton in the play-offs.
Despite it being their final game before moving to the Salford City Stadium and Heineken Cup rugby not technically assured, Sale decided to go with a weakened outfit to fulfil the RFU's English-qualified agreement and garner £80,000 in the process.
However, it was the hosts who started the brighter. In their own half, the Sharks attacked the blindside through Luther Burrell whose exquisite off-load put Mark Cueto in space.
Cueto's grubber through was collected by Addison who touched down, but the try was disallowed for a push on Quins' full-back Brown.
Although the home side played with verve early on, their inexperienced set-piece struggled. The pressure told and they were duly punished at the scrum, but Evans failed to convert the resultant penalty opportunity.
It was Sale who were next to attack as once again they ran from deep. Good interplay between Dave Seymour and Lee Imiolek sent Tom Brady clear before the winger was held up by some impressive visiting defence.
And the failure to take their chances cost them dear. In the 22nd minute, powerful surges from the visitors' forwards got them to inches of the line. Care then showed his athleticism to jump over the ruck and touch down.
Evans slotted the simple conversion as Quins took a 7-0 advantage against the run of play.
But it was the lift they needed to establish their authority, and they nearly went over seconds later. After George Lowe had burst through the middle, the ball was recycled out to Brown who was shepherded into touch.
Sale finally got on the board through the boot of youngster Bell before Evans restored the visitors' seven-point advantage.
However, it was Quins who continued to have the better of the play in the latter stages of the opening period.
And they scored their second try when a wonderful flat pass sent Brown through a gap. The England international then evaded Rob Miller's weak tackle to cross to whitewash.
The Twickenham Stoop-based outfit started the second half as they finished the first, continually challenging the Sharks' game-line.
Successive Evans' penalties took the advantage out to 21-3 before Nick Easter was sin-binned for Harlequins.
That seemed to spur the hosts on as Addison made a late case for 'try of the season' with an outstanding individual score.
Taking the ball in midfield, the centre weaved past two defenders to go over from 50 metres.
Bell added the extras and Sale began to dominate possession, however, excellent Quins' defence and minor errors stopped them from scoring any further tries.
And Evans secured the victory with a three-pointer eight minutes from time.
Despite the defeat, the Sharks will be playing Heineken Cup rugby next season after Bath's loss to Leicester Tigers.
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|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale Sharks|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle Falcons vs Leicester Tigers|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Saturday 28th March|
|15:00||London Irish vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Leicester vs Exeter|
|15:15||Saracens vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 29th March|
|14:00||Sale vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Bath|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Bath|
|Saturday 11th April|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Gloucester|
|15:15||Saracens vs Leicester|
|Sunday 12th April|
|14:00||Exeter vs Northampton|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Sale|
|Saturday 25th April|
|14:00||Sale vs Harlequins|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Bath vs London Irish|
|15:00||Northampton vs Saracens|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Welsh|
|Sunday 26th April|
|14:00||Wasps vs Exeter|
|Saturday 9th May|
|14:00||Sale vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 1st March|
|Wasps 32 - 21 Gloucester|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Exeter 16 - 6 Bath|
|Saracens 22 - 17 Newcastle Falcons|
|Leicester Tigers 28 - 8 Sale Sharks|
|London Welsh 12 - 50 London Irish|
|Friday 27th February|
|Northampton 17 - 13 Harlequins|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|London Irish 6 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Bath 13 - 21 Northampton|
|Harlequins 21 - 32 Exeter|
|Gloucester 48 - 10 London Welsh|
|Sale Sharks 14 - 10 Saracens|
|Friday 20th February|
|Newcastle 23 - 23 Wasps|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Wasps 37 - 6 Harlequins|
|London Welsh 12 - 52 Sale|
|Saracens 34 - 24 Bath|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Exeter 46 - 17 Newcastle|
|Friday 13th February|
|Leicester 18 - 15 Gloucester|
|Northampton 15 - 9 London Irish|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com