Sharks snatch late victory

13 Mar 2016
Sharks snatch late victory

A 78th-minute try by fly-half Joe Pietersen saw the Sharks bag a crucial 18-13 Super Rugby victory over the Stormers at DHL Newlands on Saturday.

The result means the Sharks move clear at the top of the South African group after outscoring their hosts two tries to one in a tense cross-conference derby.

It also means the Sharks and Brumbies (who face the Stormers next week) are now the only unbeaten teams left in the competition. 

The game was tinged with controversy, however, with Stormers fans feeling much aggrieved by a penalty try awarded to the Sharks early in the second half, which changed the complexion of the game. 

As has become the trend in high-stakes South African derbies, there were big hits aplenty but few scoring opportunities in the first half. 

The Stormers dominated both the territory and possession stats in the opening stanza and were good value for their 10-3 lead at the interval. Defence was the name of the game, with just one line-break on offer to 31 000-strong audience. 

The second period was a somewhat more open affair as the influence of the Stormers' monster second rowers diminished, their scrum creaked and the Sharks grew in confidence, eventually wrestling away control of the scoreboard. 

The much-anticipated scrum battle between Springbok props Frans Malherbe and Beast Mtawarira saw the Sharks skipper draw first blood, in the form of two penalties that gave the visitors welcome respite from the early waves of Stormers attacks. 

The hosts nevertheless opened the scoring - 17 minutes into the game - via the boot of Kurt Coleman after Sharks number eight Daniel du Preez was penalised for a no-arms tackle. 

Pietersen was able to reply almost immediately though, after Malherbe failed to roll away, leaving the scores locked at 3-3 at the end of the first quarter. 

The Stormers were first over the whitewash too as Leolin Zas raced over in the corner after collecting Coleman's cross-field kick. Sharks full-back Willie le Roux was left red-faced after horribly misjudging the bounce of the ball and allowing Zas to ghost home untouched.  

Coleman landed the touchline conversion to put the hosts 10-3 up, a lead which they kept until the break as Pietersen missed his second shot at goal and the Sharks failed to capitalise on their only extended period of pressure of the first 40 minutes. 

The Sharks drew level early in the second half. Calling their penalty try controversial could be the understatement of the season. Siya Kolisi saw yellow for getting his foot under the ball as Cobus Reinach stretched for the line, an action which TMO Marius Jonker adjudged to be intentional.

Pietersen added the conversion, and at 10-10, control of the game had slipped from the hosts' grasp as Coleman missed a penalty soon afterwards. 

Tensions were running high and a scuffle between Scarra Ntubeni and Lourens Adriaanse sparked a furious wave of handbag swinging. This time the TMO found no reason for a card to be dished out - correctly - but an already-intense clash had now reached epic levels of physicality. 

Schalk Burger was penalised on the deck, and was then walked back 10m for chirping, bringing the kick within Pietersen's range. And the Sharks fly-half hit the mark from 49m out to put the Sharks ahead for the first time as the game entered the final quarter. 

Le Roux's game wasn't getting any better though as the Bok full-back kicked out on the full twice in the a space of minutes, robbing his team of much of the momentum they had gained. 

With less than six minutes left on the clock Coleman hit the target from 35-odd metres out to level the scores again after Andre Esterhuizen was pinged for a dangerous tackle. 

The Sharks saved their best attack for last as JP Pietersen broke the line before putting his namesake away for try in the corner. 

The conversion was missed, by the Sharks fly-half's 13-point personal haul proved enough to for the win.