Sharks’ teamwork pays off

2011-03-12 00:00

THE Rebels were the team with a cause and the Sharks were decidedly fortunate to escape with a 34-32 win in Melbourne yesterday to remain unbeaten and stay top of the Super Rugby log.

There were moments yesterday when it seemed that the Sharks, who lacked cohesion on attack and were suddenly vulnerable on defence, looked the more likely losers.

They started brightly to lead 13-3 after 26 minutes. Pat Lambie kicked two penalties and hooker Bismarck du Plessis crashed through three tacklers to score after the Sharks had controlled possession through 15 phases.

But the Sharks then went walkabout, losing momentum, kicking poorly out of hand and falling off tackles as Stefan Terblanche was exposed a couple of times in midfield.

It came as no surprise when their proud defensive record – a total of 273 minutes without having their line crossed — was shattered with three Rebels’ tries (by Cooper Vuna, Julian Huxley and Danny Cipriani) in eight minutes on either side of half-time.

More worrying was that they looked flat and, trailing 13-25, they were in serious danger of defeat as the confident Rebels forced them into a string of errors.

But if little else, the Sharks showed character and almost immediately wing Lwazi Mvovo scored after a strong midfield break by flank Willem Alberts and an unselfish pass from centre Meyer Bosman on the line.

Lambie, who landed all six of his kicks on the night (four conversions and two penalties), kicked the awkward conversion and the Sharks were back in touch at 20-25.

The Sharks had their chances to settle the contest as the loss of Wallaby fullback Mark Gerrard to injury and wing Vuna to a yellow card disrupted the Rebels. But they took their time and it was only finally after 71 minutes that they scored again when number eight Ryan Kankowski stretched over after Alberts’ drive to the line (27-25).

The bonus point was secured with three minutes remaining after a dreadful error in the Rebels’ midfield saw replacement Sharks centre Adi Jacobs, dribbling down the right wing, bent his cross in-field where Rebels flyhalf Cipriani fluffed a wild pass and Bosman was in the goalmouth to round off for the fourth try.

The Rebels were not done and mauled over from a lineout drive in the final minute for a bonus-point fourth try by Jarrod Saffy.

Relieved Sharks captain John Smit, who had a workmanlike rather than spectacular hour on the field, was delighted with the win.

“It was great to win, but this tournament still has a long way to go. We showed a lot of grit in a game of ups and down. The Rebels did well to take advantage of a couple of line breaks,” Smit added.

Rebels coach Rod Macqueen said he was proud of his side.

“I was particularly pleased with the forwards and also that the players came off disappointed that they lost rather than cheering that they came so close.”

The Sharks will be concerned at their lack of organisation in midfield defence and the leaking of four tries, in particular the one that went to former England flyhalf Cipriani, who broke from a lineout and ran 55 metres to score.

Bismarck du Plessis was superb in broken play and turned over possession four times at the tackle, but had some throwingproblems at the lineout, while Keegan Daniel, and Alberts, in the second half, were influential.

After gaining 10 log points in Australia, the Sharks travel to New Zealand to play the Chiefs and the Crusaders on the next two Fridays.

 

Scorers

Sharks: 34 (13). Tries: Bismarck du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo, Ryan Kankowski, Meyer Bosman. Conversions: Patrick Lambie (4). P enalties: Patrick Lambie (2).

Rebels: 32 (18). Tries: Cooper Vuna, Julian Huxley, Danny Cipriani, Jarrod Saffy. Conversions: Danny Cipriani (3). Penalties: Danny Cipriani (2).

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