'The first reflection is 'wow!' - Detysha Harper on stunning Harlequins win and life back in Manchester

Tysh Harper in action for Sale Sharks during their victory over Harlequins
©Sale Sharks

After a heavy opening day defeat to Bristol Bears, it would have been easy for Sale Sharks Women to shy away from the challenge of facing a Harlequins side full of stellar names on a freezing cold night at Heywood Road.

You don't have to rewind the clock back very far to a time when Sale's place in Premiership Women's Rugby looked in serious doubt but on Saturday evening their hard work, desire and dedication shone through as they secured an impressive 35-31 victory.

Despite Harlequins scoring five tries, Sharks were not to be denied as they held onto a famous win.

"I think the first reflection is 'wow!'" a beaming Detysha Harper tells TRU's Elizabeth Cartwright. "Winning feels so good after losing. I think that just shows the journey that we're on. The first game was a hard game but we reflected and we came back and answered and that's all you can ask for."

Early this year during a Six Nations training camp, Sale's Harper ruptured her Achilles which saw her sidelined for a large chunk of 2023. Last week, she returned to play after her lengthy injury lay-off and she admits coming back to face the Bears at Ashton Gate wasn't easy: "Last week, I felt a bit set up as they are the hardest front-row in the league!” she says with a laugh.

"But it was nice to measure myself in that area. This week [v Harlequins] was a lot more realistic but 10/15 minutes felt like a full half and to see the game out the way we did, I'm happy with that. I'm really glad to be back playing."

Harper joined Sale Sharks from Loughborough Lightning in the summer, a club where she spent four years at. When the opportunity to move to Manchester came about, she didn't have to think too hard about saying yes.

"It was quite an easy decision for me. I finished uni and the first thought was to come back home” she continues. “I think the easiest decision was knowing the people that are already here and how loving they are. Michelle Orange is also amazing - she's who is behind it all. I'm so thrilled to be here."

'Knowing people at the club' certainly applies to Harper as Manchester is where it all began for her as well as teammates Hollie Bawden and Alicia Calton.

Following some time apart to master their crafts elsewhere, the Eccles RFC products are together once again this season: "It's so funny. When they walk in the changing rooms and you see their faces there, it feels just like it did when we were at Eccles. We've never lost that bond and it's great to be reunited with them - they're great."

The Premiership Women's Rugby campaign is now hurtling towards Round Three but before the beginning of the new season, players from across the top-flight starred in the 'Powered Differently' campaign, which was designed to celebrate women and to show they are more than just rugby players.

Harper got involved in the shoot herself and shared what it felt like being papped: "The first thing I thought when I got there was this is how supermodels live and it's what I want to do when I retire!” she laughs.

"It was fun doing something that didn't involve rugby. Everything we do is associated with rugby. To move completely away from that and to see what people do outside of rugby, the jobs we do, the clothes we wear which aren't kit, it was really nice."

Back to on-the-pitch matters and now Sale have secured their first win of the season, all eyes are firmly fixed on this weekend's fixture against last year's finalists Exeter Chiefs. Susie Appleby's side have begun the term with two victories - including Sunday's 29-14 triumph over Bristol - and while Harper is aware of the challenge that awaits, she believes her squad have got every chance of doing well in 2023/24.

"I definitely think Sale have it in them to get into the top four at least but we'll just have to see how the games pan out. I do think it's the most competitive league. If you look at that scoreboard [v Harlequins], 66 points were scored tonight and I think that just shows how much the league has grown and I'm really excited to see where we end up."