Narrow win for sluggish Sharks

2010-05-15 00:00

THE Western Force played much of the rugby, but the Sharks took their scoring chances to end their Super 14 season with a narrow 27-22 win at King’s Park last night, reports JOHN BISHOP.

The Sharks never matched the intensity, the forward drive and superb defence of their win against the Stormers last Saturday, but they did score three tries to one and scrambled back well in defence to edge out the Force.

The Sharks, after their nightmare start to the campaign, won seven of their last eight games, but still finished only in eighth spot in the standings.

“We were not at our best tonight,” Sharks captain John Smit said after the game, “but we hung in well.”

“It’s just a pity about those first five games, but you can’t start the way we did and expect to be in the play-offs,” he added as he reflected on the season.

Force captain Nathan Sharpe said it was a game his team should have won.

“Credit to the Sharks, but we made too many mistakes. I’m really disappointed. We had our chances to win, but we did not take them.”

Force coach John Mitchell said the Sharks’ “scrummaging pressure had been huge” and had prevented his team from gaining momentum.

The Force, with the edge in possession and territory, botched a number of potential tries which would have won them the game.

The Sharks spent the first five minutes of the game without the ball and hard on defence, but then came away strongly.

Prop Jannie du Plessis and fullback Patrick Lambie worked the blindside slickly, and strong young wing Lwazi Mvovo hit the line at pace to score in the corner after eight minutes.

Ruan Pienaar converted superbly, but then a string of four successive penalties, two from long range by scrumhalf Brett Sheehan and two by James O’Connor, inside 12 minutes saw the Force in front 12-7 after half- an-hour.

The Sharks went back in front after a powerful scrum opened the way for number eight Ryan Kankowski to burst over close to the uprights (14-12) before Pienaar and O’Connor traded penalties for the Sharks to lead 17-15 at the break.

The Sharks struck quickly in the second half when a solid lineout drive took flank Jacques Botes to the line and Pienaar’s angled conversion gave Smit’s team a 24-15 lead after seven minutes.

The Force continued to control the flow of the game, but the Sharks, in spite of a number of slipped tackles, somehow kept them out.

Ironically, the Force’s only try after an hour came when it was least expected. O’Connor, fielding a poor pass deep in his in-goal area, set out on an ambitious run and the flowing movement saw the ball carried 110 m downfield before wing Nick Cummins crossed (24-22).

A Pienaar penalty five minutes later stretched the Sharks’ lead to five points (27-22) and the game swung from end to end in a closing 15 minutes littered with errors and turnovers without a change to the scoreline.

Committed young wing Mvovo, fullback Lambie — as much on defence as attack — the abrasive flank Jean Deysel and tighthead prop and the man of the match, Du Plessis, were all prominent in the win.

The Force’s O’Connor, Sheehan and flank David Pocock troubled the Sharks all night.

A relieved John Plumtree, who accepted the Hawera Cup from Force coach and good friend John Mitchell, said it was a game “that could have gone either way”.

“We were a bit flat and we played too much rugby behind the advantage line,” said the Sharks coach.

But, in contrast to the start of the season, at least the Sharks ended their Super 14 campaign winning the close games.

 

SCORERS

Sharks: Tries Lwazi Mvovo, Ryan Kankowski, Jacques Botes. Conversions: Ruaan Pienaar (3). Penalties: Pienaar (2).

Western Force: Try: Nick Cummins. Conversion: James O’Connor.

Penalties: Brett Sheehan (2), O’Connor (3).

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