Sharks sunk in wet clash

2011-03-19 00:00

THE Sharks, beaten at their own game by the Chiefs, slithered and slipped to a 15-9 defeat in the Super Rugby match on a wet Hamilton evening yesterday.

This was the Sharks’ first loss in the competition though the bonus point for losing by less than seven points has kept them top of the log.

It was an untidy affair, spoilt by the conditions and the inability of the players of both sides to play constructive rugby in the rain. The contest was decided by the lottery of penalties, with the Chiefs holding the advantage in terms of territory, kicking five to Pat Lambie’s three for the Sharks.

But it was the way that the Sharks forwards were bossed about in the second half which will be of major concern to coach John Plumtree.

The Sharks made tackle after tackle in the drizzle of the first quarter. But they held on and, by half-time when they led 6-3, looked the more likely winners as their strong pack, particularly in the scrums, appeared to be taking charge.

But the Sharks lost focus immediately after the break, the Chiefs lifted their heads and replacement flyhalf Mike Delaney landed two superb penalties for the lead after just four minutes (9-6). Lambie levelled the scores at 9-9 after 14 minutes, but a second close penalty call against Sharks scrumhalf Charl McLeod for going off-side at a set scrum took the Chiefs ahead with 11 minutes remaining before Delaney’s fourth kick in injury time ended the game (15-9).

Stefan Terblanche, who took over as captain after John Smit — who scrummed solidily — was replaced after an hour, praised his team’s defence but little else.

“It was not a spectacle but we could have been a little bit smarter. They had game-breakers all around the park, but we are proud of our defence and we tried hard out there. It was a real dogfight and we are disappointed with the result.”

Chiefs captain Liam Messam celebrated the four log points.

“It was an important win for us and very gutsy,” Chiefs captain Liam Messam said. “The conditions weren’t too good and it wasn’t the prettiest of rugby but we came away with the win and we’re happy.”

It was the most frustrating of evenings for the Sharks who had the tools to do the job, but could not find the field position to use them. Plumtree has previously spoken glowingly about the physicality of the Sharks pack but his forwards failed to gain the expected control in the decisive second half yesterday.

The result was that they spent much of the game dithering in their own half, seldom creating any momentum, instead of playing for territory and pressuring the Chiefs in their own quarter.

On only one of two occasions did they establish strong attacking platforms only to immediately concede possession and territory.

The quality of their possession also suffered and scrumhalf McLeod often had to contend with untidy, slow ball in the wet.

Individually the Sharks did well enough. Their defence was strong and a dramatic improvement on their Melbourne display while Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Alistair Hargreaves all had strong games.

But the overall control, the cohesion and authority, went missing yesterday … and so did their unbeaten record. Their long flight home to Durban today will not be a happy one.



Chiefs 15 – Penalties: Nano Williams and Mike Delaney (4).

Sharks 9 – Penalties: Patrick Lambie (3).

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