Saving the best until last

2013-07-01 00:00

THE Sharks saved their very best until last as their backs finally clicked to fashion a match-winning try for fullback Riaan Viljoen off the last move of the match to clinch a 22-20 Super Rugby win over the Auckland Blues at King’s Park on Saturday.

The Stormers lifted some of their blushes with a 28-3 win over the Cheetahs at Newlands where the Free Staters’ hopes of reaching the play-offs for the first time took a bad knock.

The Sharks, now ninth on the log, and the 10th-placed Stormers have kept alive their slim mathematical chances of reaching the play-offs.

The Bulls climbed to second spot on the log, scoring six tries with a crushing 48-18 bonus point victory over the Southern Kings at Loftus.

Defending champions Chiefs are on top of the standings after their 34-22 local derby win over the Hurricanes.

The Sharks did the sixth-placed Cheetahs a favour by beating the Blues in Durban, but they could not have left it later. And this time they did it without the boot of Pat Lambie, who had a rare off-day with the boot, both tactically and at goal as he missed five kicks (four penalties and a conversion).

After dominating territory, possession and the penalty count 7-1 in the first half, the Sharks led 17-5 at the break. The Sharks lacked backline pace and poise and both their tries (to flank Marcell Coetzee and scrumhalf Charl McLeod) followed strong lineout drives.

But the Blues, in spite of being hammered in the scrums, took advantage of the Sharks’ poor tactical kicking in the second half, creating space on the outside and scoring three tries to hold a 20-17 lead for the final quarter of a see-saw contest.

But in the last play of the late afternoon, the Sharks took the ball through multiple phases before replacement hooker Bismarck du Plessis cleverly transferred the ball to the backs, the accurate passes were finally made and Viljoen crashed through two tacklers in the corner for the winning try.

The Cheetahs now host the Blues this weekend and the teams will be playing for sixth place and the final play-off spot. The Sharks travel to Loftus on Saturday night to meet the Bulls.

With none of the Australian teams playing (because of the British Lions tour), there was just one game down under and Dan Carter, with 25 points, was back to his best as the Crusaders beat the last-placed Highlanders 40-12.

The Bulls settled the contest against the Kings with a six-minute first-half blitz, which brought tries for Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jan Serfontein and Francois Hougaard, and they had their bonus point by the 34th minute.

The Kings, last in the South African conference, are now destined to play the Golden Lions in the promotion-relegation games in a couple of weeks.

Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi and Bryan Habana scored tries for the Stormers against the disappointing Cheetahs who lacked any intensity on attack, and appeared to have suffered more than the other teams from the June break.

“It was very disappointing and definitely the shocker of the year for us,” said Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss. “We must just write this off as a bad job and look forward to the Blues game.”

South African scores and scorers (home team first):

Sharks 22 – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Blues 20 – Tries: Frank Halai (2), Rene Ranger. Conversion: Chris Noakes. Penalty goal: Baden Kerr

Bulls 48 – Tries: Louis Fouché, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann. Conversions: Fouché, Morné Steyn (5). Penalty goals: Steyn (2). Kings 18 – Tries: Wimpie van der Walt (2). Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (2).

Stormers 28 – Tries: Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalty goals: Pietersen (3). Cheetahs 3 – Penalty goal: Riaan Smit.

OTHER RESULTS

Chiefs 34 Hurricanes 22

Highlanders 12 Crusaders 40.

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first)

Friday:

Crusaders v Chiefs 9.35 am.

Saturday:

Hurricanes v Highlanders 9.35 am

Cheetahs v Blues 2.50 pm

Kings v Stormers 5.05 pm.

Bulls v Sharks 7.15 pm.

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