Bulls form has Sharks at sixes and sevens

2011-05-23 00:00

THE Bulls triumphed 32-23 over the fumbling Sharks at King’s Park on Saturday night, but it was the Stormers who emerged from Week 14 of the Super Rugby competition with the broadest smiles.

The Sharks, on home turf, were slight favourites to beat the Bulls just as the Blues were expected to beat the Stormers in Auckland. Had the bookies been right, the Sharks would this morning have been sitting on a handy three-point lead on the South African log and the Bulls’ title defence would have been all but over.

Instead the Stormers’ superb 28-26 victory over the Blues has provided them with a five-point cushion on the South African conference log, the Sharks are now out of the top six and the Bulls have revived their chances of reaching the play-offs.

The Cheetahs ran in their record fourth successive Super Rugby win by beating the struggling Rebels 41-21 in Bloemfontein and the Sharks cannot be looking forward to their trip to the Free State capital in a fortnight.

The Cheetahs scored five tries to the Rebels’ three but the win was tarnished by the red-carding of wing Ryna Benjamin for head-butting. He will face a disciplinary hearing in Bloemfontein today.

Across in Sydney, the Waratahs ended the Lions’ brief revival with a 29-12 win. Butch James, starting at flyhalf for the Lions, did fashion a try for fullback Jaco Taute with a neat grubber, but there was little else to celebrate as the Waratahs ran in four first-half tries for their bonus point and a 29-5 lead.

The Waratahs fell away after the break and the Lions will take comfort from the fact that they outscored them 7-0 in the second half.

The Waratahs now travel to South Africa and face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday evening.

The Crusaders, inspired by flyhalf Dan Carter, overcame a string of injuries to down the Chiefs 25-19 and they look dangerous at fourth on the log.

The precocious James O’Connor, often the match-winner for the Force, fluffed his lines against the Rebels, missing a couple of kicks and dropping the ball over the line late in the game which ended in a 13-13 draw.

The Sharks were blitzed in the opening quarter as their defence leaked alarmingly and the fired-up Bulls ran to a 20-6 lead on the back of tries by Francois Hougaard and Bakkies Botha.

By the time the Sharks defence had settled, their handling was wobbling and attack after attack ended with possession being coughed up .

The Sharks also conceded a string of penalties which allowed Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn to clear his lines in the first half and then keep his team well ahead on the scoreboard in the second.

The Sharks changed over 6-23 behind and when Bismarck du Plessis ploughed over, and Pat Lambie converted and kicked his third penalty (26-16), there was some hope in the 36 000 crowd of a revival in the final quarter.

But their challenge was ended by a brace of Steyn penalties (32-16) and a dropped pass on the Bulls’ line by replacement prop Eugene van Staden after scrumhalf Charl McLeod had run 50 metres.

That, really, was the story of the Sharks’ night.

Adi Jacobs, who started at centre in place of Meyer Bosman, did cross for the Sharks’ second try in the closing minutes for Lambie to convert from the touchline (32-23). Lambie then failed with a penalty of close to 50 metres after the final hooter for the bonus point. Frankly, the Sharks did not deserve it.

But the weekend belonged to the Stormers even if they were fortunate to have been awarded the winning try in Auckland.

The Blues coach Pat Lam disputed the try and even the scorer, Stormers captain Schalk Burger, was unconvinced: “Can we go back for the penalty?” Burger asked referee Keith Brown as they waited for the video referee’s decision.

Still, the Stormers, severely disrupted by injury, deserved every piece of luck after their spirited second-half comeback overturned a 19-3 half-time deficit for the two-point win.

And, for those looking for omens, it all happened at Eden Park where the Springboks are hoping to be playing in the World Cup final in October.

SCORES AND SCORERS: Sharks 23 Bulls 32 (H-t: 6-23) Sharks - Tries: Bismarck du Plessis, Adrian Jacobs. Conversions: Patrick Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (3)Bulls - Tries: Francois Hougaard, Bakkies Botha. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (5). Drop goal: Steyn

Cheetahs 41 Rebels 21 (H-t: 21-7)

Cheetahs - Tries: Corne Uys (2), Rayno Benjamin, Adriaan Strauss (2). Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (4), Naas OIivier. Penalties - Ebersohn (2). Rebels - Tries: Ged Robinson, Mark Gerrard, penalty try. Conversions: Richard Kingi (3).

Waratahs 29 Lions 12 (H-t: 29-5)

Waratahs - Tries: Sosene Anesi (2), Kurtley Beale, Ryan Cross, Tom Kingston. Conversions: Beale (2).Lions - Tries: Jaco Taute, Dylan Des Fountain. Conversion: Elton Jantjies.

Crusaders 25 Chiefs 19(H-t: 6-6)

Crusaders - Try: Luke Romano. Conversion: Dan Carter. Penalties: Carter (5). Drop goal: Carter. Chiefs - Try: Liam Messam. Conversion: Stephen Donald. Penalties: Donald (4). Force 13 Brumbies 13 (H-t: 10-10)

Force - Try: Sam Wykes. Conversion: James O’Connor. enalties: O’Connor (2). Brumbies - Try: Henry Speight. Conversion: Matt Giteau. Penalty: Giteau (2).

Played Friday: Blues 26 Stormers 28

Weekend byes: Hurricanes, Highlanders, Reds.

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first, SA kick-off):

Friday: Hurricanes vs Force 09:35

Saturday: Highlanders vs Lions 09:35; Brumbies vs Stormers 11:40; Sharks vs Waratahs 17:05; Bulls vs Cheetahs 19:10

Sunday: Reds vs Crusaders 08:10.

Byes: Blues, Chiefs, Rebels.



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