Harlequins 16 Sale Sharks 23

Aussie test ace Dan Vickerman and former Newcastle favourite Epi Taione look set to follow Nick Evans to the Twickenham Stoop.

Harlequins boss Dean Richards confirmed he has won the race to land Auckland Blues fly half Evans, as revealed by the Chronicle last week.

But it may yet be a few weeks before Vickerman and Taione - who changed his name to Paddy Power for the duration of the last rugby World Cup in a sponsorship deal agreed with the Irish bookmaker - are added to that list.

With Nicolas Spanghero, Simon Keogh, and Ricky Nebbett joining Adrian Jarvis, Paul Volley, Hal Luscombe and Chris Hala'Ufia in leaving at the end of the season, Richards feels now is the time to bring in some experienced playmakers to add to his current crop of outstanding youngsters.

He said: "I am delighted that Nick has decided to join us. He is a highlyskilled and versatile player with a wealth of experience both at international and Super 14 level. He will be a valuable asset to our side."

That little bit of experience is what Richards reckons counted in Sale's favour when the Sharks beat Quins in Sunday's crucial playoffs clash.

Quins stormed into an 11-point lead courtesy of a Tom Williams try and two Jarvis penalties, but they lost their focus after hooker Tani Fuga was stretchered off with a neck injury and had fallen nine points behind by the break.

Richards said: "I looked at the Sale team before the match and felt they had a little more experience than us, which was probably the difference.

"We played extremely well for the first 20 minutes but let an easy try shake us, and it took us some time to regain our composure and start playing again.

"But when you consider that the average age of the side is 23, it's a fantastic effort from a really young side, and every season they are just getting that little bit more experience."

The defeat leaves Quins needing a win at Leicester on Saturday to have any chance of making the endof-season jamboree.

But Richards insists that even if Quins don't win, they can still hold their heads up high.

"We haven't given up on a play-off place, but we are not focusing too closely on it," he said. "It is just another game we want to win.

"I know we are still in with a shout, but it's not solely about that. It's pride in your own performance, getting things right and improving. League position is almost a side issue."

Fuga remains a doubt for Leicester, but Ugo Monye will have a late fitness test.