SALE Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson admitted his players reacted poorly to resurgent Harlequins’ second-quarter salvo of tries as they slipped a 24-12 defeat and a second successive loss.

Having won so impressively at leaders Bristol at the start of the month, the new coach has seen his side lose to Bath and now Quins to slip to fifth place in the Gallagher Premiership table.

Marcus Smith produced a virtuoso display at fly-half for Quins, the highlight of which was the dynamic break that led to Alex Dombrandt’s try.

Smith also landed all three conversions, two of them of tries scored by the superb Joe Marchant, and kicked a penalty as Quins claimed their fourth consecutive victory since Paul Gustard stepped down as head of rugby last month.

The Sharks were in danger of slipping to a heavy defeat but fought back with tries by Curtis Langdon and Robert Du Preez only to run out of steam.

“For 70 minutes we dominated territory but they’re the best in the league on the transition at the moment,” said Sanderson whose side host champions Exeter tomorrow.

“From an attacking point of view we have to take our opportunities.

"We left a couple of tries out there. And if we’d been a bit sharper we could have stopped a couple of theirs.

“All credit to Quins, they took their tries well and they’re playing with a bit of fizz about them. They’re on a bit of a roll.

“We expected a couple of their lightening bolts because they’re back to their best at that, but it’s about how you react to that.”