Sharks fluff their chances

2012-09-24 00:00

ELLIS Park and the Lions again brought out the worst in the Sharks and John Plumtree’s charges were beaten 28-22 on Saturday night, losing a Currie Cup match they should have won at a canter.

It was another of those massively frustrating evenings for the Sharks, their coaching staff and the supporters as Keegan Daniel’s team dominated territory and possession for the first hour, but were ultimately denied, first by the excellent Lions defence and then a rush of two tries in a couple of minutes in the closing stages.

The defending champions are now three points clear of the Sharks at the top of the log with three rounds remaining.

The Sharks have battled at Ellis Park over the past two years, but this time they seemed to be heading for a comfortable win when they led 16-6 at the break, and it took all of 50 minutes for the Lions to enter their quarter for the first time.

But the Sharks, coughing up mountains of possession at the tackle, hit by a 9-3 penalty count and failing to turn at least half-a-dozen scoring chances into points, never broke free, and the Lions, guided by flyhalf Elton Jantjies, ruthlessly took their scoring chances in the final quarter for the win.

Wing Odwa Ndungane, following one of Keegan Daniel’s many forays, and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, from a sniping break, scored the Sharks’ first-half tries, but Jantjies kept the Lions in touch with a string of penalties before Ruan Combrink and Jaco Kriel scored late tries settled the game.

An astute and inspired tactical call by Lions coach Johan Ackermann also played a part as he replaced Jantjies with Butch James in the 79th minute, and for the last setpiece of the game. The Sharks, needing a try and conversion to win, fed a scrum five metres out, Daniel broke off the back, but James quickly wrapped him up in a strong tackle to turn over the ball and the contest was over.

The Sharks were convinced that there had been a knock-on in the build-up to scoring the try, which took the Lions ahead, but the match officials did not agree and neither captain Daniel nor coach John Plumtree later made any mention of it. And certainly there was no excuses for this defeat. The Sharks had their chances to win this game but fluffed them …time and again.

“We lost far too much possession at critical times,” said Daniel. “But all credit to the Lions. They held on and then finished well.”

Plumtree said there was obvious frustration in the Sharks’ camp.

“We had opportunities to win that game and we just weren’t accurate enough in our execution, especially 15, 20 metres out from their tryline.

“It was very close, but especially when you’re away from home, you have to take those opportunities and we failed in that. We felt like we were in control of the game, but our intensity dropped off with about 20 minutes to go. The Lions really played some good rugby, they were down at half-time and had to play catch-up, so they deserve some credit as well.”

The Blue Bulls swapped places with the Free State Cheetahs at the bottom of the log with a 34-30 win at Loftus.

The Bulls were ahead 17-9 at half-time after flyhalf Louis Fouché kicked four penalties and young Sampie Mastriet at wing rounded off for a try, while the Cheetahs’ Nico Scheepers kicked three penalties.

Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak created the opening for a try by Franco Mostert and the Bulls were ahead 27-9. The Cheetahs refused to lie down and tries by outside centre Raymond Rhule and Scheepers narrowed the gap to 27-21. It was only in the 75th minute that Bulls loose forward CJ Stander scored to settle the issue though loosehead prop Marcel van der Merwe gained a his team a bonus point with a try on the final hooter.

Western Province bounced back from their Durban defeat with a 45-21 win over Griquas at Newlands. WP were impressive in the first half and had their four-try bonus point by the break (31-7).

Griquas showed some fight in the second half, but they made far too many errors and were never in contention.

Province host the Lions on Saturday while the Sharks meet the Blue Bulls at King’s Park on Friday night.

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