Victory, albeit messy, for Sharks

2011-02-21 00:00

THE Sharks battled to express themselves in the wet, but downed the Cheetahs 24-9 at King’s Park, while the Bulls were mightily relieved to escape from Ellis Park with a 24-20 win over the willing Lions in the weekend’s opening round of Super Rugby.

In the most significant result of the first round, the Blues, who travel to Durban from Auckland today to meet the Sharks on Saturday, produced a stirring second-half display to upset the Crusaders, who are joint favourites, 24-22.

The Chiefs fumbled away several tries and were beaten 28-20 by the Brumbies in Canberra and yesterday the Reds needed two late tries to squeeze past Western Force 21-20 in the all-Australian encounter in Brisbane.

The Reds trailed for most of the game, but edged home after tries from hookers Saia Faingaa and his replacement James Hanson to deny the gallant Force.

On Friday, the Melbourne Rebels, on debut, were outclassed 0-43 by the Waratahs and the visiting Highlanders stunned the Hurricanes 14-9.

The steady drizzle ruined the entertainment in Durban as both the Sharks and the Cheetahs traded kicks and handling errors, and were unable to produce any flowing rugby.

Significantly, both tries were the result of the Sharks’ driving mauls off attacking lineouts, with flank Jacques Botes diving over for the first after just four minutes and then hooker Bismarck du Plessis plunging over for the second, 12 minutes from the final whistle — for a 21-9 lead — to effectively seal the win.

The Sharks had their problems in the lineouts, and lost half-a-dozen on their own throw, but their forwards were otherwise stronger and more physical.

Referee Craig Joubert also hammered the Cheetahs with penalties for their engagement at the scrums and the visitors, resorting to a series of poorly-placed up-and-unders, rarely threatened on attack.

The Sharks, who appeared undecided about whether they should run or kick, initially tried to keep the ball in hand. But, without any forward momentum and laboured in passing the wet ball, their backs were playing on their heels and provided easy pickings for the Cheetahs defenders.

By the second half, both sides were kicking the ball wildly down field and there was little to amuse or entertain.

The Sharks will be happy with their four log points and little else, though flank Willem Alberts and hooker Du Plessis impressed with their physica­lity.

The champion Bulls were given a nasty fright at Ellis Park after initially dominating their game against the Lions.

The Bulls led 24-5 at the break as the Lions started slowly. Fullback Zane Kirchner and wing Gerhard van den Heever, who punished a poor Elton Jantjies kick by running 55 metres to the line, scored tries for the Bulls.

Jantjies’s clever pass opened a gap for centre Waylon Murray to score for the Lions. The Bulls looked set for a comfortable win, but John Mitchell’s Lions, fielding seven new players after finishing bottom last season, staged a remarkable comeback, scoring 15 unanswered points and edging the final try count by three to two.

Reserve hooker Martin Bezuidenhout and Warren Whiteley scored second half tries for the Lions.

Jantjies, who missed four kicks on the night, goaled a late penalty (24-20) and the Bulls were forced to hang on for their win.

SCORES AND SCORERS (HOME TEAM FIRST):

Yesterday:

Reds 21 - Try: Saia Faingaa, Nathan Charles. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalty: Cooper (3). Force 20 - Try: James O’Connor. Penalty: James O’Connor (5)

Saturday:

Sharks 24 – Tries: Jacques Botes, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalties: Lambie (3), Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Cheetahs 9 – Penalties: Naas Olivier (3).

Lions 20 - Tries: Waylon Murray, Martin Bezuidenhout, Warren Whiteley. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty: Jantjies. Bulls 24 - Tries: Zane Kirchner, Gerhard van den Heever. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalty: Steyn (4).

Brumbies 28 – Tries: Robbie Coleman, Francis Fainifo, Salesi Ma’afu. Conversions: Matt Giteau (2). Penalties: Giteau (3). Chiefs 20– Tries: Sitiveni Sivivatu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Leila Masaga. Conversions: Stephan Donald. Penalties: Donald.

Blues 24 – Tries: Benson Stanley, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu. Penalties: Stephen Brett (3). Crusaders 22 - Tries: Sean Maitland, Andy Ellis. Penalties: Dan Carter (4).

Friday’s results:

Hurricanes 9 Highlanders 14

Rebels 0 Waratahs 43

Bye: Stormers

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