Sharks sink sluggish, rusty Blues

2011-02-28 00:00

THE Sharks, superb in defence but flattering to deceive on attack, and the relieved Stormers came away with valuable Super Rugby victories on Saturday.

The Sharks placed themselves under pressure by botching a couple of tries, but their excellent defence denied the Auckland Blues in a 26-12 win on a warm evening at King’s Park.

The Stormers, making their first appearance of the competition after a first-round bye, were rusty and poor in the set pieces, but squeaked home 19-16 against the willing but luckless Lions at Newlands.

For the second successive week John Mitchell and his Lions, who again played most of the rugby, were left ruing might have been as they were pipped in the closing minutes.

The Waratahs head the combined log after gaining maximum for the second week in a record four tries to nil, 30-6 win over the Reds.

The Sharks, the defending champions Bulls, the Stormers (with their bye) are also unbeaten.

The upset of the weekend came when England and Melbourne Rebels flyhalf Danny Cipriani, under investigation for a nightclub incident, slotted home a last-minute penalty goal to snatch a 25-24 win over the Brumbies for the newcomers’ first win in the competition.

Flyhalf Patrick Lambie scored 21 points as the Sharks made it seven wins in a row over the Blues at King’s Park. Lambie scored after just four minutes when an attempted grubber rebounded kindly and he scuttled over.

The Blues were sluggish and untidy from the start and for an hour the Sharks appeared in control and they kept their noses in front throughout as Lambie and Blues flyhalf Stephen Brett kept trading penalties.

The Blues, trailing 19-12, finally found some front-foot possession and attacking rhythm in the closing quarter as the Sharks, with John Smit on at hooker, lost a couple of lineouts and kept themselves under pressure. But the contest was settled when replacement centre Jacques-Louis Potgieter made a timely interception and sent wing JP Pietersen running through for the Sharks’ second try and a 14-point win.

The Sharks did produce moments of sublime rugby, but they made a hash of finishing off, with flank Willem Alberts once dropping the ball over the line and then hanging on with a two-man overlap in a try-scoring position moments later.

Still, this was a highly commendable win over the Blues team who had downed the Crusaders the week before and 12 All Blacks spread across the field.

The Sharks pack, as a unit, improved markedly on their form of the previous week, keeping the Blues under fierce pressure and forcing a string of turnovers. Alberts, apart from his funny five minutes early in the second half, was again an imposing force, but there were lively showings from fellow-loose forwards Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski and hooker Bismarck du Plessis. The Sharks locks, Alistair Hargreaves and Steven Sykes, were also impressive against the Blues’ All Black second-row pairing of Ali Williams and Anthony Boric.

The Sharks backs, until late in the game, were also more direct, organised and slicker than the highly-regarded Blues backline, who expressed themselves badly under pressure and were repeatedly downed by the swarming defence.

Replacement flank Pieter Louw scored a try five minutes from the end as the Stormers prevented the Lions from ending a nine-match losing streak against them.

The shaky Stormers only took control in the closing minutes when experienced flyhalf Peter Grant came off the bench to provide them with some authority.

Allister Coetzee, the Stormers coach, admitted he was mightily relieved and was critical of his team’s set pieces.

“This game was really close,” said Coetzee. “Credit to the Lions because they really showed that they came out to play, but we showed guts. It was a nerve-wracking match.”

John Mitchell, the Lions coach, said his players have not yet learnt to trust each other.

“This is the one that got away but we will never give up trying.”


Saturday’s scores and scorers:


26 (Patrick Lambie, J.P. Pietersen tries; Lambie 2 conversions, 4 penalties), Blues

12 (Stephen Brett 3 penalties; Luke McAlister penalty).

Stormers 19 (Pieter Louw try; Gary van Aswegen 3 penalties, Peter Grant conversion, penalty), Lions 16 (Waylon Murray, Jaco Taute tries; Elton Jantjies 2 penalties).

Waratahs 30 (David Dennis, Drew Mitchell, Benn Robinson, Lachlan Turner tries; Kurtley Beale 2 conversions, Berrick Barnes 2 penalties), Reds 6 (Quade Cooper 2 penalties).

Friday results:

Melbourne Rebels 25 Brumbies 24.

Highlanders 23 Chiefs 13

Bulls 25 Cheetahs 23

Hurricanes vs Crusaders cancelled points shared).

Bye: Western Force.

Combined log (after two rounds): Waratahs 10, Sharks 8, Highlanders 8, Bulls 8, Stormers 8, Brumbies 5, Force 5, Blues 4, Reds 4, Rebels 4, Crusaders 3, Hurricanes 3, Lions 2, Cheetahs 1, Chiefs 0

Four points awarded for byes (Stormers and Force).

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