Harlequins returned to winning ways at The Stoop, hammering league-leaders, Sale Sharks, 36-3 under Friday night lights in round eight of the Gallagher Premiership.
Tries from Tyrone Green, Danny Care, Sam Riley, and a Will Joseph brace silenced the visitors.
Jonny Hill was lucky to stay on the pitch after his scuffle with Chandler Cunningham-South broke through the advertising boards and into the stands.
George Ford feigned a drop-goal attempt in the opening minutes, setting the tone for the battle of the tens.
Marcus Smith spent large chunks of the evening controlling the match from his trusty right boot.
Smith outsmarted Gus Warr with a cheeky chip through, tackling the goose-stepping Sale scrum-half on his own line.
Another Smith kick allowed Green to pick the ball and jog over the line.
Motivated by noise of the Quins faithful, continued pressure saw Cadan Murley power through the Sale defence, and Care’s half-snipes drawing a penalty in front of the posts.
Smith slotted the easy three points in pragmatic, though un-Quins-like, fashion.
A long-range penalty attempt by Ford went wide, though he was able to claim three before half time, slotting it next to the sticks after a strong Harlequins defence.
Smith lit up the second half, jiving through the Sale line before offloading to Care who barrel-rolled over for the try.
The red mist descended on Sale, with Hill scrapping with Cunningham-South, seemingly pinning the former London Irishman on the terrace concrete by the throat.
With the London crowd aggrieved at the decision, Riley crashed over to add his name to the scoreboard.
Despite a prolonged period in Harlequins’ 22, Sale were unable to come away with any points.
An unconventional cross-field kick penalty inside their own half allowed the hosts to flair through the Mancunians – Joseph finishing from Murley’s inside ball for the bonus point.
Joseph soon added his second in the corner – Quins fans now dancing to House of Pain’s Jump Around over the loudspeakers.
James Chisholm put the game to bed with a turnover at the death to quell any hopes of a Sale try and leaving Quins provisionally second in the league.
While elated with his player-of-the-match performance, Smith acknowledged that the transition from fullback to flyhalf was not straight forward.
He said: “I spent a lot of time playing and training at 15 so I tried to bring it back to basics this week. I had a good chat with the club’s psychologist, and for me, it was just about making good decisions at ten so I can influence the team and lead.”
Care’s second half try, set up by Smith, allowed Quins to push on and dominate the remainder of the game.
Smith said: “When I was in the sheds at half-time, I thought I’d have a go early and luckily there was a little gap.
“I know whenever I make a break that DC [Care] is going to be on the inside – he’s got a lot of pace, so I love playing with him.”
It is a partnership that Steve Borthwick will pay close attention to when selecting his starting line-ups at the Six Nations in 2024.
“I’ve loved playing with DC the last six years; he’s taught me a lot on and off the field and is an exceptional bloke.”
The altercation, which saw Jonny Hill and Chandler Cunningham-South at the forefront, will take time for Harlequins’ Director of Rugby, Billy Millard, to digest.
He said: “[The fight was] madness, there was so much going on and I’m in the gantry looking through a little peephole. I need to have a look at it, I’m glad no one got hurt.”
With the Investec Champions Cup around the corner, Millard is spurred from an emphatic performance.
He said: “We went to Racing last year and should have won the game. [It is] really exciting heading to Paris off the back of that effort.”