Sharks defeat Lions to reclaim top spot
March 9, 2014
Sharks flanker Willem Alberts produced a typically powerful performance
© Getty Images
The Sharks have seen off a resilient Lions side to reclaim top spot on the Super Rugby ladder, with flanker Marcell Coetzee scoring a try in the final minutes to secure a bonus-point victory for the Durban.
The Sharks led 30-9 with half an hour to go, but the Lions launched a spirited fightback to narrow the gap to just one converted try and set up a tense final 10 minutes. Lions replacement Corne Fourie was sent to the sin bin with five minutes remaining, however, and the Sharks took advantage of their one-man advantage to push for the bonus-point score.
The Sharks claimed their big lead on the back of a fine performance from Francois Steyn at fly-half, a late to after first-choice five-eighth Patrick Lambie was laid low by a bout of tick bite fever that laid Lambie low. His booming kicks out of hand and flawless goal kicking were key in the success, landing four conversions and three penalties including two penalties from Sharks territory to keep the scoreboard ticking. Lions kicker Marnitz Boshoff also enjoyed a perfect afternoon with the boot, but he had fewer opportunities.
"Francois Steyn was absolutely exceptional," Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said.
"I'm very happy at getting the bonus point. We used our excursions into the Lions' 22 to build up points, and I believe that was the deciding factor against good opponents. But we must keep our feet on the ground. We will have to play better to be contenders for the Super 15 title."
The Sharks dominated possession and territory early, as they had against the Bulls and Hurricanes, but they opened the scoring ironically from a turnover in their own half - Steyn passing long to put Lwazi Mvovo into space. Mvovo kicked the ball ahead and chased, and centre Paul Jordaan controlled the ball on his fingertips to score a converted try. Steyn and Boshoff then traded goals before Cobus Reinach sparked the Sharks to claim a 23-9 half-time advantage, the scrum-half accelerating through a gap and weaving through the Lions' defence.
Cobus Reinach scored a fine individual try shortly before half-time © Getty Images
The Sharks seemed to have the game in the bag when Odwa Ndungane crossed 10 minutes after the break, but the Lions dominated for the next 20 minutes after the changes made by respective coaches Johan Ackermann and Jake White. The visitors scored tries by Faf de Klerk and Deon van Rensburg to hint at claiming a result, but the Sharks showed their own brand of resilience to deny the visitors even a bonus point.
Lions captain Warren Whiteley was "gutted" not to take any points from the match a week after another point-less loss against the Bulls. "We did not start well and were always playing catch-up, but when we got within seven points near the end I thought we would get something out of the game," he said.
The Sharks showed skill and courage to maintain their undefeated record (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with AAP
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold