Thoroughly satisfying wins weekend

2012-03-19 00:00

THE Cheetahs took a leaf out of the Sharks’ book as they produced a display of courage and commitment in beating the Rebels 33-26 in Melbourne yesterday.

Just 12 hours earlier the Sharks, hopelessly outclassed for long periods in the first half, bounced back to pull off one of their more famous wins by beating the title-holding Queensland Reds 27-22.

These two wins rounded off a thoroughly satisfying weekend for the South African teams with the Stormers downing the Blues 27-17 at Newlands on Friday night while the Bulls and the Lions picked up four log points for their weekend byes.

The Cheetahs gained only their second-ever win in Australia as they bravely refused to settle for a 26-26 draw as the hooter sounded. Instead they launched a spectacular attack for replacement scrumhalf Pieter van Zyl to round off a move which started deep in their own half.

Willie le Roux scored two tries in the first 10 minutes, but was then yellow carded for knocking the ball down with Rebels on attack. The Cheetahs conceded only three points while a man down and went into the break leading by 20-10, but the Rebels levelled at 26-26 with the two flyhalves, James O’Connor and SA U20 talent Johan Goosen, who is now the top scorer in the competition with a personal haul of 65 points, trading penalties.

But, with Ashley Johnson prominent in a multi-phase move, Van Zyl ran clear to score the winning try deep in injury time.

The Highlanders, by the smallest margin of the weekend, and the Stormers, by the largest, maintained their unbeaten records. The Highlanders needed a 74th-minute penalty to replacement flyhalf Chris Noakes to edge the Hurricanes 19-17.

And, in Sydney, the Waratahs were upset 21-20 by the Force and they will be desperate to beat the Sharks in their tour opener at the same venue on Saturday.

Considering the superiority of the Reds in the first half at wet, blustery King’s Park, the Sharks win was even more remarkable. The Reds, with all the ball, the territory and finding yawning gaps in the Sharks’ defence, led 17-0 after half-an-hour and the mood of the surprisingly good crowd of 23 000 was as foul as the weather.

But the mood and tempo of the game changed dramatically six minutes before the break as replacement lock Jandre Marais scored a try fashioned by scrumhalf Charl McLeod and then Wallaby wing Digby Ioane was yellow-carded (it should have been red) for an ugly tip tackle on Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee.

The Sharks outscored the Reds 27-5 in the closing 46 minutes of the game. They came tantalisingly close to score a fourth try in the closing moments after McLeod had ended the Reds’ lengthy siege on their line with a thundering tackle in midfield and in their own quarter.

It was an excellent, fast-moving contest in wet, windy conditions and both sides had to overcome disruptive injuries before and during the game.

“It never helps when both your playmakers [and goalkickers] go down,” Queensland captain James Horwill said of the injuries to Mike Harris and Ben Lucas. “We fell off some tackles and credit to the Sharks, they held on to the ball and created some pressure. We should have adapted to the conditions better.”

The Sharks left yesterday on their four-match tour, licking plenty of wounds, but with their heads high after their extraordinary evening at King’s Park.

 

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