Lucky day for Sharks

2009-03-01 00:00

THE rugby gods — and the television referee — smiled benignly down on the Sharks in Hamilton at the weekend as they maintained their unbeaten record in beating the Chiefs 22-15 to stay third on the log.

The Sharks’ second away win in three games — after their success at Newlands — was the product of heroic defence, a superb kicking game and a healthy dose of luck.

In contrast, the overhyped Stormers, in spite of the brave efforts of captain Jean de Villiers, lost their second home game in Cape Town and will have done the Sharks no favours in boosting the Blues’ confidence ahead of the game in Auckland on Saturday.

Wing Paul Williams scored all the Blues’ points in their 14-8 victory as the Stormers, with territory and possession, frittered away chances in a disjointed team effort.

The Bulls, in the rain at Ellis Park and with Pierre Spies and Danie Rossouw in menacing mood, played all their rugby in the first half (16-0), but did not score in the second as the spirited Lions came back to within seven points (16-9). The Bulls stay top of the log with the Waratahs, but victory came at a price with Springbok wing Bryan Habana possibly sidelined for a month with a suspected broken hand.

The Waratahs are locked with the Bulls on 14 points at the top following their 34-16 win over the Highlanders in Sydney.

The Force, the Sharks’ opponents in their fourth and final tour game in Perth at the end of the month, upset the Brumbies 25-16 in Canberra and they are now fourth.

The Cheetahs again failed to break their overseas duck, making a string of defensive errors to lose 22-3 to the Reds in Brisbane yesterday.

The Sharks somehow survived 10 minutes of intense pressure, and two tight video referee calls, which on another day might easily have gone against them, to win in Hamilton.

The Chiefs also lost a certain try when lock Kevin O’Neill dropped a cross-field kick from team-mate Stephen Donald with the line wide open, while the Sharks’ first try (by Frans Steyn) followed a blatant forward pass (from Steven Sykes to Bismarck du Plessis). Of course, the Sharks will tell you that referee Bryce Lawrence owed them a favour or two after blowing them out of the Brumbies game last year, a defeat which cost King’s Park a home semi-final.

The Sharks did have the misfortune to lose one of the most physical forwards, flank Jean Deysel, to a knee injury in the opening minutes. They also survived the sin-binning of scrumhalf Rory Kockott who was sent off following blatant obstruction.

The Sharks led 22-8 going into the final 15 minutes after JP Pietersen scored the second of two tries within minutes from chip kicks to the corner. But they then immediately spilled the kick-off, the Chiefs scored (22-15) and the Sharks spent the rest of the game hard up against their try-line in desperate defence and at a time when they should have been well clear and looking for a fourth bonus point try.

Pietersen and fullback Stefan Terblanche were superb in defence and coach John Plumtree admitted he was surprised at the decisions of the TMO Brett Skeen.

“One or two decisions went our way for a change,” he said.

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