13-29 Harlequins sell-out: The hosts missed a chance to reclaim top spot after the Premier League’s youngest centurion Marcus Smith inspired Quins to victory with a superb display

  • Tabai Matsan’s side managed to stop Sale’s thunderous momentum
  • Smith led the way as Queen’s ended an unbeaten start to the season for the hosts
  • He scored a try, kicked seven penalties and was named man of the match

Marcus Smith put on a stunning display to celebrate becoming a record-breaking Premier League centurion with a try, a perfect seven-in-seven kicking and Man of the Match award at Salford on Sunday.

It was a significant result for a Harlequins side whose fortunes have fluctuated greatly in the first month of this season. After defeat at home to Leicester, Tobay Matson’s side managed to halt Sale’s thunderous momentum to beat them at the AJ Bell Stadium for the first time since 2015 and deny them a return to the top of the league.

Before the game, it was the Sharks who were seven from seven – in all competitions – but at the end Smith claimed a flawless tally with two conversions and five penalties. It was a fitting way to add to his hundred as the youngest player to reach triple figures in the league at the age of 23 years, 251 days.

Marcus Smith led the way as Harlequins ended Sale’s unbeaten start to the season

The England scrum-half gave his club and country a boost at the end of the weekend too, which must have sent manager Eddie Jones hiding behind the nearest couch, desperate to avoid any more bad news. Not only did Smith stay healthy, but he flashed a mature game that his coach Mattson appreciated.

“Today was the best example of how he’s shown he can play Test rugby,” Matson said. “He scored all his goals and kept the pressure on, keeping the score on the scoreboard. Every time he leaves England he comes back a better player because international rugby is different.

“He’s going in the right direction in his international career and the fact that he’s 23 and has already played 100 Premier League games is just ridiculous. He will break many records.”

Smith put on a stunning show to celebrate becoming the Premier League’s record-breaking centurion

Smith himself expressed his satisfaction with the important victory in notoriously hostile territory. He said: “We didn’t have much success here, it’s a tough place to play, but we dug deep and got the win.”

The visitors’ No 10 set up Nick David’s opening try with a deft cross under pressure and then fired the ball off the post from an acute angle. Sale hit back through Sam James and a Rob du Preez penalty, but Smith responded with a penalty of his own and then a try before the break when he slotted home after sparking a lineout raid.

The fly-half shone with mature play which was praised by Harlequins coach Tobai Matson

The fly-half shone with mature play which was praised by Harlequins coach Tobai Matson

He continued to find the target when chances came in the second half as Sale’s discipline came to naught. Smith, Danny Kerr and Tommy Allan gave Quins a wily control of the game that their opponents lacked.

When Will Evans crushed Tom Curry with a late blockbuster to force a tie, it summed up the balance of power for the day.

When asked what led to his team’s demise, Sale’s director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, said: “Decision-making in attack and our discipline in defense which gave them easy points. We acted with unwavering composure, and today we walked away from that.”

Before the match, Sail winger Tom Roebuck was promoted to the England squad for the upcoming training session in Jersey.

The 21-year-old from Chester was called up by Jones after Henry Arundel and Jonny May joined the growing list of injured in Friday night’s damaging London Ireland v Gloucester game.

Arundel is believed to have aggravated a foot injury and May is suspected to have a sprained elbow, which could lead to another lengthy lay-off for the 32-year-old.