Sharks blown away in the final quarter

2010-02-27 00:00

THE Sharks huffed and puffed for an hour before the Crusaders blew them away in the final quarter of their Super 14 game in Christchurch yesterday.

The Sharks trailed by seven points (13-6) going into the final 20 minutes of the game, but were then run ragged by the Crusaders, who scored three tries in 10 minutes to take a 35-6 bonus point win.

The Sharks’ third successive loss has left them with just two bonus points, but tellingly, they have scored only one try in 240 minutes of rugby

“We’ve now had three disappointing results, but we were beaten by a better team tonight,” battered Sharks captain John Smit said after the game. “We made errors in defence which you just cannot do against a team like the Crusaders. But we also have to find a way to put points on the board by scoring tries.”

Crusaders captain Kieran Read, who was replaced by All Black captain Richie McCaw for the last quarter, said he was delighted with his team’s showing after their defeat last weekend to the Reds.

He said his team had created the groundwork for the win with their excellent defence in the first half.

“To change over with the wind and leading 10-6 set the tone for us. There were some really big hits going in.”

The Sharks started strongly, winning clean possession from all phases and pressuring the Crusaders into a string of errors in the first half and disrupting their lineout.

The competitive Bismarck du Plessis and Ryan Kankowski were particularly prominent in the strong forward showing, but Smit’s team fell between two tactical stools and they erred in not playing to the conditions.

In their two previous outings, the Sharks have been guilty of kicking away possession instead of keeping the ball in hand, but yesterday they sacrificed field position by trying to attack from their own half — and laterally — when they had the breeze at their backs.

The result was that they were pinned down in centre field by stern Crusaders defence and made a number of errors behind the advantage line instead of setting up strong bridgeheads in enemy territory.

One forced pass by flank Willem Alberts in the tackle resulted in an intercept and the first of two tries for wing Zac Guildford, which gave the Crusaders a 10-6 half-time lead.

Scrumhalf Rory Kockott, with excellent penalties from 55 and 50 metres, scored the Sharks only points of the half and indeed the match.

The Sharks held on bravely for 20 minutes in the second half, opting to drive with their forwards and ignoring their backs. But they were constantly on the backfoot, contained by strong tackling, while their scrum, again, was under massive pressure. The Crusaders also did what the Sharks failed to do in the first half with flyhalf Dan Carter, using the breeze, booting for field position while they attacked the gainline down the middle to build momentum.

Inevitably, as the pressure told, the tiring Sharks started conceding penalties and missing tackles and the Crusaders were quick to punish them.

Carter kicked his third penalty after 63 minutes (16-6) and then a telegraphed Sharks’ backline move in their own half after 70 minutes gifted Guildford his second try from an easy intercept of a Riaan Swanepoel pass (23-6).

Pienaar switched to scrumhalf after an hour, but replacement, England flyhalf Andy Goode, did not tarry long before he was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Carter.

Adam Whitelock and Quentin MacDonald crossed for tries in the last seven minutes for the bonus point as the spent Sharks tamely surrendered to round off another miserable night for the players, their coach and their frustrated supporters.

They now travel to Sydney to meet the Waratahs next weekend and this time, at least, their opponents will be travelling from South Africa. This shaken Sharks team need all the help they can get.


Crusaders: Tries: Zac Guildford (2), Adam Whitelock, Quentin MacDonald. Conversions: Daniel Carter (3). Penalties: Carter (3)

Sharks: Penalties: Rory Kockott (2)


The worst of times for the Sharks: page 63

More Super 14: page 70

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