Sharks batter their way to brave victory over ‘flash’ Reds

2010-04-05 00:00

IT was not pretty, but the bludgeon proved more effective than the rapier as John Plumtree’s Sharks battered their way to a 30-28 Super 14 victory over the enterprising Queensland Reds at King’s Park on Saturday night.

In the first 45 minutes it appeared that the creative, exciting Reds, with their quick, incisive backline thrusts, would secure victory, but the Sharks forwards then took charge to bash their team to a bruising, narrow win.

“It was all about character,” head coach John Plumtree said later.

“We have limitations,” said Plumtree in an obvious reference to the lack of attacking flair and pace in the Sharks backline. “But we have to find other ways to win and credit to the players and John Smit for changing their game in the second half, holding on to the ball and creating the pressure which allowed us to win the game.

“We are not a flash team,” he said and then added tellingly, “the Reds are.”

Plumtree said the Sharks’ win was probably the bravest one since he had taken over.

“When you take the travel back from New Zealand, the fatigue, the heat and the fact we trailed 21-9 in the second half against a team who were hurting us and can score tries from anywhere, then it was a really gutsy effort. The way the forwards took charge in the second half shows the character in this squad.”

Plumtree paid tribute to the 22-year-old Quade Cooper, the Reds flyhalf with an extravagant sidestep. He not only cut the Sharks’ line at will, setting up two tries and fashioning one for himself, but he kicked superbly out of hand and at goal.

“He is an outstanding footballer and one heck of a playmaker,” said the envious Sharks coach.

“We did well to bottle up Will Genia at scrumhalf, but Cooper hurt us in that inside channel.”

Both Genia and Reds coach Ewen McKenzie were generous losers, praising the Sharks forwards for their second-half effort.

“They did an excellent job in contesting our possession and upsetting our ball,” said McKenzie. “We played into their hands by making mistakes at the breakdown and the maul, but credit to the Sharks for using their power. They have some big guys who carry the ball well. We were not clinical enough to win, but we did get some reward with two bonus points.”

Genia said that the Sharks deserved their win because their forwards took charge in the second half “and they played to their strength”.

McKenzie was also rich in his praise of Cooper.

“He is a freakish player, unlike any flyhalf Australia have had in recent years. He not only has the individual skills, but also controls the game well.”

The Sharks’ heroes were among the forwards. Flank Jaques Botes again had a productive evening and, in the final minute, he was somehow able to drag himself back 60 metres and pull down wing Digby Ioane, who had sprinted through the midfield and was on his way to winning the game.

The Sharks have lost arguably their most effective game-breaker in Ryan Kankowski. The number eight is out for the rest of the Super 14 with a broken thumb.

Smit and the improving lock Alistair Hargreaves, a towering presence in the lineouts, left the field with second-half injuries, but the Sharks have a bye this weekend and both will be fit for the Lions game at Ellis Park on April 17.

The Sharks again scrummed solidly, they had the edge in the lineout and their rolling maul created panic in the Reds’ ranks and won them acres of territory.

The Du Plessis brothers, Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Steven Sykes all enjoyed themselves in the trench warfare of the second half while the backs, when not being cut to pieces by Cooper, largely held a watching brief.

And that was the contest, the superior Sharks forwards against the slicker Reds backs, and it made for compelling viewing.

See page 14 for Super 14 round-up

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