Failure to close down tight game cost Sharks at Ellis Park

2010-09-27 00:00

THE Sharks’ worrying habit of failing to close down tight games came back to haunt them at Ellis Park where they were beaten 22-20 by the Lions on Saturday evening.

While the Sharks seem certain to host a home Currie Cup semi-final (by finishing first or second on the log), the defeat has kept Western Province in the hunt for top spot and a potential home final.

Coach John Plumtree said that the Sharks had been unfortunate to lose with the Lions awarded the winning try on the final hooter by referee Jason Japhta when lock Franco van der Merwe was held up short of the line.

“We were a bit unlucky to lose to a try that probably should have been disallowed. But now I’m just looking for an improvement in the weeks ahead and we must make sure we finish more of those opportunities we create,” said Plumtree.

He said the Sharks had dominated territory and possession in the first half, but should have scored more tries.

“The first try they scored — when a Ryan Kankowski pass went astray and the Lions moved the ball the length of the field — came off a poor decision. That was disappointing. We could have been up 15-3 at the break instead of being level at 10-10,” he said.

But Plumtree paid tribute to the Lions and their coach, John Mitchell.

“You have to give them credit. They defended very well and were hungry for the win. It was do or die for them and their defence was pretty tight.”

Plumtree said that previously the Lions had been a 40 or 50-minute team, but they have improved in their conditioning and are now better prepared under Mitchell.

“Good on them. They hung in well and we perhaps battled at altitude and lacked some energy at the end.”

He said the Sharks were often “a bit frantic on attack and made the wrong decisions”.

“But that’s the way we’ve played and we’ve scored the most tries in the competition.

“Defensively, we made 90% of our tackles, which is good. There are always going to be times when our line is broken and we haven’t conceded that many tries. You’re always looking for an improvement, but I’m happy with our defence.”

But Plumtree’s main criticism was his team’s inability to hold their lead in the closing minutes.

“We weren’t smart in closing the game down. We’ve got to learn and fix that side of our game. We’re sometimes a bit naïve in knowing what to do with the ball in that situation,” he said of the Sharks, who played too much rugby in their own half after the break.

Plumtree said that captain and centre Stefan Terblanche, who left the field with what appeared to be a serious arm injury, had dislocated his elbow.

“It doesn’t look too serious, though, and he may only be out for a fortnight.”

Keegan Daniel, who took over as captain after Terblanche departed, said the Sharks had not “looked after the ball properly”.

“But losing a man in the final minutes [Kankowski was yellow-carded for trampling] also did not help us. I’m very disappointed with the loss.”

Currie Cup round-up, page 18.

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