SA top three now in top six

2012-05-14 00:00

THE Bulls, Stormers and Sharks, in contrasting fashion, were all weekend winners and all three South African teams are in the top six play-off places after Week 12 of Super Rugby.

The Bulls scored a late 27-24 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday while the Stormers had to fight all the way to hold off the Cheetahs 16-14 in a tense finish at Newlands on Saturday night.

And, with the Reds out-muscling the log-leading Chiefs to a 42-27 win in Brisbane yesterday, the Bulls are now top of the overall table with 46 points, trailed by the Stormers and Chiefs on 45.

The Reds at one stage trailed 22-8, but then retained their composure and ran in five tries against the team with the best defensive record in the competition.

The Sharks, ruthless and defensively resolute, crashed through the 50-point barrier for the first time in seasons to dump the Western Force 53-11 at King’s Park to climb to sixth spot on the log.

The Bulls have now lost flank Deon Stegmann to a broken arm and Dewald Potgieter is replacing him, but their Sydney win was crucial as they continue their duel with the Stormers for top spot in the South African conference.

The Stormers were cruising when they led the Cheetahs 16-0 at the half-time break after flyhalf Peter Grant kicked three penalties in the first 15 minutes and lock Eben Etzebeth crashed through a host of defenders to score.

But whatever the Cheetahs took with their half-time drinks worked a treat as they had much of the better of the second half and fullback Hennie Daniller and Willie Roux, intercepting and running the length of the field, scored tries to narrow the deficit to two points.

A mass brawl added to the tension — both Cheetahs’ loose forward Ashley Johnson and Stormers hooker Deon Fourie were later cited — but the Stormers, after a sloppy second half, held on for the last 13 minutes for a win.

The Sharks comfortably saw off the weak challenge of the Force in Durban, pressuring them with strong defence and then taking advantage of their porous defence to run in seven tries with the three scored in nine minutes immediately after half-time.

Indeed, the margin would have been even greater had the Sharks’ finishing been more precise and had not the TMO Johann Meuwesen generously gifted Force wing Sam Wara a try on the final hooter when his leg was in touch.

Still, after the entertainment-free win over the Highlanders a week before, this was heady stuff with victory built on solid work in the set pieces, fierce commitment on the gainline and superb defence.

The Sharks were helped by the Force’s inaccurate passing which saw many movements break down and twice provided wing Lwazi Mvovo with the oopportunity to show his pace in running 80 metres for tries after interceptions.

There were outstanding individual performances from flank Marcell Coet­zee, again, lock Anton Bresler, Beast Mtawarira, Louis Ludik and, in the first half, from Pat Lambie. Lambie took a heavy blow to the head and needed lengthy treatment, but minutes later he produced a sublime break before the speeding Paul Jordaan ran through for his first Super Rugby try and the Sharks’ second on the night.

Lambie did not return for the second half, but Frederic Michalak was a highly capable replacement and the Sharks, ahead 20-6 at the break, quickly ran away with the game in the second half.

The upset of the weekend came in Melbourne where the Rebels beat Richie McCaw’s Crusaders 28-19, scoring two quick tries in the 67th and 70th minutes for a stunning victory.

The Rebels were full value for their win over the seven-time champions, but it needed the rush of late points to turn what looked like being a narrow loss into a memorable win.

Wing Julian Savea scored a try five minutes before the final hooter to give the Hurricanes a 26-20 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin. The result helped the Sharks who have now climbed above the Highlanders on the log. The Sharks now travel to Bloemfontein to face the Cheetahs on Saturday.

YESTERDAY’S SCORERS

Reds 42 (15) – Tries: Dom Shipperley, Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Saia Faingaa. Conversions: Mike Harris (4). Penalties: Harris (2). Drop goals: Harris. Chiefs 27 (22) - Tries: Sonny Bill Williams,,Liam Messam,,Sona Taumololo,,Asaeli Tikoirotuma. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalties: Cruden

Saturday’s s scores and scorers (home team first):

Sharks 53 (20) – Tries: Steven Sykes, Paul Jordaan, Louis Ludik, Lwazi Mvovo (2), Carig Burden, Jacques Botes. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Frederic Michalak (4). Penalties: Lambie (2). Force 11 (6) – Tries: Sam Warra. Penalties: David Harvey (2).

Stormers 16 (16) – Tries: Eben Etzebeth. Conversions: Peter Grant. Penalties: Grant (3). Cheetahs 14 (0) –Tries: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Riaan Smit (2).

Rebels 28 (10) - Tries: Nick Phipps (2), Stirling Mortlock. Conversions: Kurtley Beale (2). Penalties: Beale (3). Crusaders 19 (19) – Tries: Sam Whitelock. Conversions: Tom Taylor. Penalties: Taylor (4).

Highlanders 20 (14) – Tries: Chris Noakes, Adam Thomson. Conversions: Noakes (2). Penalties: Noakes, Mike Delany. Hurricanes 26 (9) – Tries: Faifili Levave, Julian Savea. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (4).

Friday’s results: Blues 25 Lions 3

Waratahs 24 Bulls 27

Bye: Brumbies.

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first, SA times):

Friday: Hurricanes vs Brumbies 9.35 am

Saturday: Highlanders vs Bulls 7.30 am

Crusaders vs Blues 9.35 am

Reds vs Lions 11.40 am

Cheetahs vs Sharks 5.05 pm

Stormers vs Waratahs 7.10 pm.

Sunday: Force vs Rebels 8.35 am.

Bye: Chiefs

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