Sharks' massive defence holds off Force attack

2009-03-23 00:00

JOHN Plumtree paid tribute to the Sharks' defence in their 22-10 Super 14 weekend win at the Subiaco Oval in Perth, while John Mitchell bemoaned his team's lost opportunities.

The Force had the possession and territory to win the game, but the Sharks, on the back of two counter-attacking tries and massive defence, were clear-cut winners.

Plumtree, the Sharks' coach, conceded that the Force were a better attacking side on the day.

"We always knew it would happen, but there is more than one way to win a game.

"We would have liked to do more attacking, but our tries came through defence and I was really proud of the boys."

Plumtree said the Sharks knew the Force would on occasions break the line with their outstanding players, but said his players' cover defence and the scrambling had saved them.

"The Force would have been disappointed that they didn't cash in some line breaks, but we stepped up and put pressure on Matt Giteau, which was something we knew we had to do. It was pretty tight and physical, but we stepped up in attitude."

Looking ahead to the home leg of the Super 14, Plumtree said it would be a boost to get some reinforcements in.

"We're a bit short, losing the three [Ruan Pienaar, Alistair Hargreaves and Jean Deysel] and that stressed us a bit, so it will be good to get some guys back. We're not at full strength yet and we need more depth, particularly on the bench."

Plumtree paid tribute to new flyhalf Frans Steyn, playing in the pivot role and after a patchy showing against the Reds the previous week.

"He was under a lot of pressure, but his long kicking game is a bonus for us. He had to be the general for us and, although he didn't get as many opportunities as we would have liked, he played a big role in Rory Kockott's try."

Plumtree highlighted the importance of attitude, adding that the Reds had done their homework on the Sharks and were up for the game.

"Although we now have six home games still to play, this team still has to stay focused, and we mustn't have to question the attitude at any time as we did against the Reds last week."

He said the Sharks had played the Force with greater resolve because of what happened in Brisbane.

Plumtree added that he was delighted with the tour and the haul of 13 log points and three wins out of four.

"Obviously that's a pleasing haul, and if anyone had offered that to us before the tour, we would have taken it. So although we let ourselves down last week against the Reds, it was good to bounce back at the end and we go home in a positive frame of mind."

Plumtree said that there were no new injuries reported after the game and the Sharks expect to have Pienaar and Deysel back over the next few weeks.

The Force's coaching staff also praised the physical commitment of their players.

"The effort was huge and I guess it's hard when you've dominated territory and possession and are not converting," said Mitchell.

"We had them in all sorts of trouble in the first half, but in the end we didn't deserve to win. The scoreboard reflects that. We gave them two tries at the breakdown where we allowed them to disrupt us. How they did that was questionable, but it was also costly. Those tries [by JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane] really hurt, but you can't change that."

Mitchell said he saw many positives in his team's play, describing it as "exceptional", but said the Sharks did very well to hang on.

Nathan Sharpe, the Force captain, said it was disappointing going into the bye on a loss.

"We felt in the first half it was only a matter of time before the scoreboard would be opening up for us. But it never did and you have to give credit to the Sharks."

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