Sharks toil to defeat plucky Lions

2012-03-12 00:00

THE Bulls were given the blues, the Sharks were smiling again and the Cheetahs again fell frustratingly short in Canberra in the weekend’s third round of Super Rugby.

The other South African weekend winners were the Stormers, who earned four log points for their weekend bye.

The Auckland Blues’ 20-year-old replacement flyhalf Gareth Anscombe was the hero at Loftus as he scored all his team’s points in their 29-23 win over the Bulls.

While he kicked superbly at goal, landing five penalties and converting both his tries, Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn was uncharacteristically ragged and missed four attempts at goal.

The Bulls had the edge in territory and possession, but failed to play with their usual control — conceding the first try to an intercept by Anscombe — and they were rattled by the Blues’ excellent defence and high tempo.

“It was a pretty daunting debut at this stadium,” Anscombe said later. “The forwards fronted up and luckily I banged over a few goals and took some opportunities.”

Anscombe played after regular flyhalf Michael Hobbs was forced to return to New Zealand because his father, former All Blacks captain Jock Hobbs, is gravely ill with leukaemia.

The Sharks, lacking continuity, were again hammered by referee Mark Lawrence in beating the injury-hit Lions 32-20. The Sharks conceded nine of their 13 penalties at the breakdown, and often when they were on attack, and as a result struggled to find any attacking continuity against the plucky Lions’ defence.

The Lions later disputed a number of tight calls, which helped the Sharks to a bonus point for four tries, and certainly Plumtree’s team will have to improve dramatically to contain the title-holding Queenslands Reds in Durban on Saturday evening.

The Lions’ problems were in handling the high ball — as the Sharks changed their tactics — and at the lineout, and Riaan Viljoen and Lwazi Mvovo ran in two first-half tries for 17-6 halftime lead.

But the Lions refused to lie down and after the Sharks had twice scored in the second-half — but then foolishly tried to run the ball out of their own quarter from the kick-off — the Lions turned over possession and scored.

The Sharks only led 27-20 for the last six minutes, but then bravely kicked what was a goalable penalty to touch in the last minute and then replacement flank Jacques Botes drove over for the bonus point try.

The Cheetahs lost 24-23 in the dying seconds to a Christian Lealiifano penalty for Jake White’s Brumbies.

The Cheetahs led 23-10 in the second half, but they were heavily penalised by referee Keith Brown in the final quarter as the momentum swung, and captain Adriaan Strauss was left ruing “the many decisions that went against us” in the closing minutes.

The Reds and Highlanders retained their unbeaten records after three rounds. The champion Reds, now on their way to South Africa, beat the Rebels 11-6 in Brisbane without playing with any conviction, while the Highlanders, at home in Dunedin, continued their surprising run by edging out the Waratahs 18-17.

 

Saturday’s scorers (home team first):

Sharks 32 (10) - Tries: Riaan Viljoen, Lwazi Mvovo, Meyer Bosman, Jacques Botes. Conversions: Pat Lambie (3). Penalties: Lambie (2). Lions 20 (6) – Tries: Jaco Taute, Ruan Dreyer. Conversions: Butch James (2). Penalties: James (2).

Bulls 23 (8) – Tries: Pierre Spies, Bjorn Basson (2). Conversions: Morné Steyn: Penalties; Morné Steyn (2). Blues 29 (20) – Tries; Gareth Anscombe (2). Conversions: Anscombe (2). Penalties: Anscombe (5).

Brumbies 24 (10) – Tries: Henry Speight, Pat McCabe. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Lealiifano (4). Cheetahs 23 (13) – Tries: Willie le Roux, Tewis de Bruyn. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalties: Goosen (3).

Reds 11 (3) – Tries: Dom Shipperley. Penalties: Mike Harris (2). Rebels 6 (6) – Penalties: James O’Connor (2).

Highlanders 18 (8) - Tries: Aaron Smith, John Hardie. Conversions: Colin Slade. Penalties: Slade (2), Waratahs 17 (9) – Tries: Pat McCutcheon. Penalties: Daniel Halangahu (4).

Friday’s results:

Force 19 Hurricanes 46.

Crusaders 19 Chiefs 24.

Stormers, bye.

This weekend’s games (home team first, SA times):

Friday:

Chiefs vs Brumbies, 8.35 am.

Stormers vs Blues, 7.10 pm.

Saturday:

Hurricanes vs Highlanders, 8.35 am

Waratahs vs Force, 10.40am.

Sharks vs Reds, 5.05 pm.

Sunday:

Rebels vs Cheetahs, 7.10 am.

Byes: Lions, Bulls and Crusaders.

COMBINED LOG:

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