Sharks tough out a victory

2013-03-04 00:00

IT was all trench warfare from beginning to end, a fierce physical battle for meagre gains before the Sharks held on for a critical 12-6 win over the Stormers in their Super Rugby derby at King’s Park on Saturday night.

In the other two games on Saturday, the relieved Bulls were given a nasty fright before a strong finish and two late tries brought them a 36-26 win over the Force at Loftus while the champion Chiefs struggled in the first half against the willing Cheetahs in Hamilton before winning 45-3.

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers was generous in his praise of the Sharks in a tight Durban contest which could have gone either way after the sides had produced a 0-0 scoreline at half-time. (It was the fourth time no points were scored in the first half of a Super Rugby match and the second time the Sharks have been involved).

Pat Lambie then kicked four second-half penalties to the two by Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen and the Sharks had their second successive win in the competition while the Stormers return to Cape Town to face the high-riding Chiefs on Saturday.

“The Sharks played the conditions [a warm, humid evening and a slippery ball] better than us,” De Villiers said.

“They also handled the high ball more effectively than we did and we made too many mistakes in the second half. You can’t do that when Pat Lambie is around.”

The torrid battle produced no tries, little flowing backplay and few highlights. Both teams, trying to cope with a greasy ball and facing brutal defence, were reluctant to take risks in a game of this importance.

The most obvious try-scoring chance of the night came after just five minutes when a perfectly-weighted chip kick by Elton Jantjies found Gio Aplon running the perfect angle into open space, but the Stormers wing dropped the ball. That was as good as it got for the Stormers.

For the rest, it was a dogfight for possession and position with the occasional individual sortie quickly snuffed out by wholehearted defence.

Both teams failed to establish attacking footholds deep in opposition territory or to keep possession for long periods. Possession was often lost under the wave of crunching tackles or at the fiercely-contested breakdowns where Sharks flank Jean Deysel excelled.

The Sharks won, in the end, because they outsmarted and outmuscled the Stormers in the set pieces, forcing a string of second-half penalties (8-2) which allowed them to grab the territory and the goalable opportunities for the crucial conference victory.

Poor line-out work in October cost the Sharks the Currie Cup final, but the introduction of new lock Franco van der Merwe, the enthusiasm of Anton Bresler, the accurate throwing of Craig Burden and careful preparation enabled the Sharks to more than hold their own in that area.

The Sharks also held sway in the scrums and props Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira squeezed four penalties out of referee Jonathan Kaplan as the Stormers, under pressure, infringed. The Sharks now travel to Port Elizabeth to face the Kings on Saturday night.

The Bulls clearly believed their press and thought they would romp to victory against the Force at Loftus. A try by Morné Steyn after two minutes would have done nothing to lift the complacency and the Force, with South African flyhalf Sias Ebersohn kicking 19 points, took full advantage, nullifying the Bulls at the breakdown.

The Force were still leading 10 minutes from full-time before a try by replacement flank Jean Cook took the Bulls ahead and prop Werner Kruger crossed for his side’s bonus-point try on the final hooter.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said the performance of his team was their “worst in five years”, but did give them credit for fighting back for the win.

Adding to the Bulls’ problems is that hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has been cited by Sanzar for charging into a ruck without using his arms.

The Cheetahs threatened in the first half and then surrendered in the second to lose 45-3 to the Chiefs in New Zealand. The Cheetahs, in their tour opener, dominated possession and territory but they failed to take their scoring chances — flyhalf Johan Goosen missed three penalties — and the Chiefs led 10-3 at the break.

The Chiefs came out firing in the second half and the Chiefs ran in five converted tries to add to the one in the first period.

Saturday’s scores and scorers:

Sharks 12 (0) – Penalties: Pat Lambie (4). Stormers 6 – Penalties: Joe Pietersen (2).

Bulls 36 (14) – Tries: Morne Steyn, Sampie Mastriet, Jean Cook, Werner Kruger. Conversions: Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (4) Force 26 (9). Tries: Angus Cottrel, Toby Lynn. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2). Penalties: Ebersohn (2). Drop goals: Ebersohn (2)

Chiefs 45 (10) – Tries: Liam Messam, Ben Afeaki, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Marshall, Ben Tameifuna. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (6). Penalties: Gareth Anscombe (1). Cheetahs 3 (3) – Penalty: Johan Goosen (1)

Results on Friday:

Blues 34 Crusaders 15

Waratahs 31 Rebels 26

Reds 18 Hurricanes 12

Byes: Brumbies, Highlanders, Kings.

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

Friday

Hurricanes v Crusaders 8.35 am

Rebels v Reds 10.40 am

Saturday

Highlanders v Cheetahs 8.35 am

Brumbies v Waratahs 10.40 am.

Stormers v Chiefs 5.05 pm

Kings v Sharks 7.10 pm.

Sunday

Blues v Bulls 5.05 am.

Bye: Force

COMBINED LOG:

P W D L PD BPts Pts

Brumbies 2 2 0 0 35 1 13

Chiefs 2 2 0 0 56 2 10

Bulls 2 2 0 0 18 1 9

Blues 2 2 0 0 33 2 10

Sharks 2 2 0 0 13 0 8

Reds 3 2 0 1 -4 0 8

Kings 1 1 0 0 12 0 8

Waratahs 2 1 0 1 -3 0 8

Rebels 3 1 0 2 -15 1 5

High'ders 1 0 0 1 -14 0 4

Crusaders 1 0 0 1 -19 0 4

Stormers 2 0 0 2 -14 1 1

H'canes 2 0 0 2 -20 1 1

Force 3 0 0 3 -29 1 1

Cheetahs 2 0 0 2 -49 1 1

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