That response took a while to arrive. Smith extended Harlequins’ lead to nine from the tee, but then came De Klerk and then came Manu Tuilagi.
When the home side realised that their unstoppable driving maul was going to be the way to get back into this, their task looked easier. Dan Du Preez’s score from the tail of another maul set up a two-point finish.
That was enough to set Sale back on the straight and narrow. And when Quins flanker Will Evans was too overzealous at a ruck, Rob Du Preez gave Sale the lead. De Klerk’s last-minute sniping try was the icing on the Sale cake, putting the trophy’s destination beyond doubt.
Scores: 5-0 (Langdon try), 7-0 (R Du Preez con), 10-0 (R Du Preez pen), 10-3 (Smith pen), 10-6 (Smith pen), 10-11 (Chisholm try), 10-13 (Smith con), 10-16 (Smith pen); 10-19 (Smith pen), 15-19 (Dan Du Preez try), 17-19 (R Du Preez con), 20-19 (R Du Preez pen), 25-19 (De Klerk try), 27-19 (R Du Preez con).
Sale Sharks: S Hammersley (M Tuilagi 28), D Solomona, S James, R Janse van Rensburg, M Yarde, R Du Preez (AJ MacGinty 79), W Cliff (F De Klerk 50); C Oosthuizen (V Morozov 60), C Langdon, J Cooper-Woolley (WG John 50), C Wiese (J Phillips 69), J-L Du Preez, J Ross (c), B Curry (T Curry 25), D Du Preez.
Replacements not used: E Ashman
Harlequins: M Brown, N Earle (A Esterhuizen 53), J Marchant, L Northmore, A Morris, M Smith (J Lang 63), D Care (M Landajo 72); S Garcia Botta (M Thomas 69), S Baldwin (E Elia 62), S Kerrod (W Louw 51), D Lamb, S Lewies (G Young 69), C Robshaw (c), W Evans, J Chisholm (A Dombrandt 63).
Yellow card: S Lewies (10)
Referee: Tom Foley