Sharks silence Bulls supporters

2011-06-20 00:00

THE Sharks saved their very best for last as they ended the Bulls’ Super Rugby reign at Loftus with a compelling 26-23 victory in front of a stunned Loftus on Saturday evening.

The win, the only upset result of the weekend, ended the Bulls’ run of six successive victories and bundled the champions out of the competition, while the Sharks’ reward is a long trek to Nelson in New Zealand to play the Crusaders in the quarter-finals.

The Sharks will leave tomorrow and will be up against opponents who beat them 44-28 in London late in March. Saturday’s match will kick-off at 9.35 am.

The other weekend results were predictable with the Stormers beating the Cheetahs 44-34 in Bloemfontein to nail down second place on the log, while the Reds are top of the heap following their 19-11 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Reds and the Stormers, advancing directly to the semi-finals, will have byes this weekend while the third-placed Crusaders and the Sharks, in sixth place, meet in the one quarter-final and the Waratahs (fifth) travel to play the four-placed Blues in Auckland on Friday.

Although the Waratahs and Sharks finished with the same amount of points (57) and victories (10), the Waratahs were placed fifth due to their superior points difference.

The winners of this weekend’s play-offs will advance to the semi-finals on July 2, where they will face either the log-leading Reds in Brisbane or the second-placed Stormers in Cape Town.

The Reds will host the lowest-ranked qualifier in Brisbane while the Stormers will play the highest ranked qualifier in Cape Town at 5.05 pm.

The other weekend games went according to the script. The Cheetahs worried the untidy Stormers early on in Bloemfontein, but the boot of Peter Grant (six penalties and three conversions) kept them out of serious danger.

The Stormers were delighted to score four tries for a rare bonus point, but they will be concerned that their tight defence also leaked four tries with wing Ryno Benjamin scoring a second-half hat-trick.

Still, the victory will be savoured in Cape Town as it allowed the Stormers to leapfrog the Crusaders and secure second spot which ensures a bye this weekend and a home semi-final. And, by winning the South African conference, Newlands has its first trophy since 2001.

The Stormers scored four tries through fullback Gio Aplon, centre Juan de Jongh, reserve loose forward Nick Koster and wing Bryan Habana.

“We can consider it a job done,” said Stormers captain Schalk Burger. “We topped the South African conference and now we have a home semi-final at Newlands. We can also rest up some bodies during the bye week before the semis,” he added.

The Crusaders, in a remarkable effort considering they have played all season away from their home patch in Christchurch, topped the New Zealand conference following their 16-9 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The Waratahs overtook the Bulls and the Sharks and climbed from seventh to fifth following their 41-7 bonus point win over the limp Brumbies in Sydney.

But it was the Sharks’ win over the champion Bulls which produced the contest of the weekend, an enthralling game between two well-matched, committed sides.

The well-selected, astutely-coached Sharks, by way of a change, started well and stunned the Bulls with their intensity as they held the early advantage in territory and possession. The Sharks scored the first try of the game shortly before the break when a neat inside pass from flank Keegan Daniel in midfield allowed the superb JP Pietersen to split the defence for centre Stefan Terblance to score. But the Bulls immediately hit back impressively when they ran a penalty five metres from the Sharks’ line and Wynand Olivier’s skip pass allowed wing Gerhard van den Heever to score. Morné Steyn’s touchline conversion narrowed the Sharks’ lead to just three points (16-13) at half-time.

Another excellent Steyn penalty levelled the scores at 16-16 early in the second, but the Sharks came close to scoring on a number of occasions before a Michalak penalty gave them a 19-16 lead. With just five minutes remaining wing Lwazi Mvovo scored the crucial try following Lambie’s neat half-break and excellent off-loads by Meyer Bosman and Ryan Kankowski.

Michalak converted from the touchline and the Sharks held a 10-point lead, but the Bulls refused to concede and took the ball through the phases to create an overlap and a try down the left wing for Francois Hougaard.

Steyn, inevitably, converted (26-23) to ensure a tense final two minutes before the Sharks won a penalty for lineout obstruction on the final hooter.

What had been billed as a farewell party for Bulls legends Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez and Danie Rossouw had been turned into an unlikely Sharks’ celebration.

 

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

Bulls (holders) 23 Sharks 26: Bulls: Penalty - Morné Steyn (3). Tries - Gerhard van den Heever, Francois Hougaard. Conversions - Steyn (2). Sharks: Penalties - Patrick Lambie (2), Stefan Terblanche. Drop goal -Michalak (1), Tries – Michalak, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions – Lambie, Michalak.

Cheetahs 34 Stormers 44: Stormers: Tries: Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Nick Koster, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Peter Grant (3). Penalties: Grant (6). Cheetahs: Tries: Davon Raubenheimer, Rayno Benjamin (3). Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (4). Penalties: Ebersohn (2).

Chiefs 11 Reds 19: Chiefs: Try: Fritz Lee. Penalties: Stephen Donald (2). Reds: Try: Liam Gill. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Cooper (4).

Crusaders 16 Hurricanes 9: Crusaders: Try: Robbie Fruean. Conversion: Dan Carter. Penalties: Carter (2). Dropped Goal: Andy Ellis. Hurricanes: Penalties: Aaron Cruden (3).

Waratahs 41 Brumbies 7: Waratahs: Tries: Lachlan Turner, Sitaleki Timani, Chris Alcock, Sosene Anesi, Dave Dennis. Conversions: Kurtley Beale (5). Penalties: Beale (2). Brumbies: Try: Francis Fainifo. Conversion: Matt Giteau.

Played Friday

Blues 33 Highlanders 16

Rebels 24 Force 27

Bye: Lions

Play-off fixtures (home team first, SA times):

Friday:

Blues (4) v Waratahs (5) 9.35 am

Saturday:

Crusaders (3) v Sharks (6) 9.35 am

July 2 (semi-finals):

Reds v lower ranked Qualifier winner (11.40)

Stormers v higher ranked Qualifier winner (17:05)

July 9: Final.

 

 

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