Sharks: A one-horse race

2012-08-06 00:00

TACTICALLY superior, physically tougher and far more determined, the Chiefs were full value for their 37-6 win over the ragged and tired Sharks in Saturday’s lopsided Super Rugby final in Hamilton.

It was just reward for the rugby played this year by the robust Chiefs, who have found the right balance between the running and kicking game while defending out of their skins.

It was all too much for the Sharks, who could not match the intensity of the Chiefs, who failed to create any momentum through their big ball-carriers, missed far too many first-time tackles and even struggled in the set pieces.

The 4-0 try tally tells it own story as the Chiefs laid the foundation in the first half and then dominated the second.

The Sharks started brightly enough and there were signs in the opening minutes that, if they could have maintained their effort for 80 minutes, they could take this game to the wire.

But after the first quarter the Sharks started dropping off the pace, their concentration wavered, mistakes crept in and Sonny Bill Williams made the opening for the Chiefs’ opening try.

From that moment this was a one-horse race, with the Sharks off the pace and lacking the intensity to break the Chiefs’ rhythm.

The errors came in a rush with even Pat Lambie, for goodness sake, dropping the ball.

In contrast, the Chiefs were clinical and streetwise, with flyhalf Aaron Cruden astutely varying his play and chipping kicks into space behind the Sharks’ backs. And with the Sharks on their heels, they made little headway when they did have the ball, as the Chiefs’ speed off their line in defence was remarkable.

Added to the their frustrations was the obstruction allowed the Chiefs by referee Steve Walsh around the breakdown and in early interference at the lineout, which spoilt the visitors’ ball.

And so the Chiefs advanced to their first title win in style.

Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said his side’s confidence grew after a shaky start. “We managed to disrupt them a bit in the air and put them on the ground so they couldn’t drive.

“The second half showed our trademark line speed and the boys were getting up in their faces,” he said.

“We’ve got a heap of pride in our defence and we talked about not letting them over and keeping to no tries.”

Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said the Sharks should have scored early in the game and centre Paul Jordaan made one searing break which should have led to a try.

“That’s what finals rugby is about. You get such a little amount of opportunity to score points and you should capitalise, and when we dominated the game early on we didn’t put that into points,” he said.

“No excuses.

“The Chiefs were outstanding. They really suffocated us.”

All the Sharks had to show for their efforts were two penalties by Freddie Michalak who never had the frontfoot possession and the territory to weave any magic of his own.

Cruden, who kicked a conversion and two penalties, provided the chip kick (missed by a rusty Lambie) and Williams’s break led to Tim Nanai-Williams scoring the only try of the first half.

From an attacking scrum, backrower Kane Thompson took advantage of blatant obstruction to run through a huge gap to score the Chiefs’ second try and replacement wing Lelia Masaga picked up a wild Daniel pass and raced 50 metres to the line for the third.

Williams, in his final match for the Chiefs, fittingly scored the fourth in the final few minutes and then ran headlong into the adoring crowd.

The Sharks, feet dragging, lungs burning and faced by a 37-6 scoreline, would no doubt have loved to have followed him.

Scorers:

Chiefs 37(13) Tries Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga, Sonny Bill Williams. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (4). Penalties: Cruden 3).

Sharks (3) 6 Penalties: Freddie Michalak (2).

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