Currie Cup

Sharks hammer Lions

2011-10-15 21:15
Ryan Kankowski (Gallo)
Durban - The Sharks secured a home Currie Cup semi-final with an emphatic 53-9 win over the table-topping Lions in Durban on Saturday.

The coastal side ran in seven unanswered tries to ensure they host the Cheetahs in next week's first semi-final at the same venue.

Earlier on Saturday the Cheetahs beat Griquas 49-39 to give them a glimmer of hope of hosting one of the playoffs but their win proved to be in vain as the Sharks registered a bonus-point win. Despite scoring 14 tries against the Leopards, it was still not enough for the Blue Bulls to advance to this year’s Currie Cup semi-finals.

Their fate was in the hands of Western Province, who had to grind their way to a bonus-point victory over the Pumas in Cape Town on Saturday to secure a spot in the top-four.

Province beat the Pumas 43-18 to finish the regular season with a point ahead of the Bulls on 41 points setting up a semi-final berth against the Lions in Johannesburg next Saturday.

It is the first time since 2001 that the Bulls have not secured a playoff spot. The Lions, however, will now take on Province in the second semi-final at Ellis Park next Saturday. The Sharks came out like a team possessed as they were chasing the bonus-point victory over the log-topping Lions.

The Johannesburg-based side, however, were not in a mood to dish out favours as their defence held strong in the opening minutes.

The visitors drew first blood thanks to flyhalf Burton Francis’ boot as he succeeded with a penalty conversion eight minutes into the match.

After a number of relentless attacks, the Sharks finally found a breach in the Lions’ defences as flyhalf Frederic Michalak scored under the cross-bar six minutes later, with the pivot converting his own try.

Michalak enjoyed a flawless kicking performance on the night as he converted all seven of his side's tries and added two penalty conversions to their score.

Francis reduced the hosts’ lead to one-point with another penalty conversion on the first quarter mark.

The Lions, however, received a costly blow with 11 minutes left in the first half when lock Michael Rhodes was sin binned for a tip tackle.

The Sharks soon capitalised on the advantage of having an extra player on the field as eighthman Ryan Kankowski scored a five-pointer with seven minutes left in the half.

Centre Marius Joubert received a quick ball from a ruck on the 22 metre line, and then offloaded to a speeding Kankowski who dove over for the try, with Michalak converting to take the score to 14-6.

The Sharks struck once again eight minutes after the restart when Willem Alberts made his presence felt coming off the bench.

Alberts wriggled and turned his way to score his first try since returning from New Zealand, with Michalak converting.

Francis pulled back another three points with his third attempt at goal to take the scores to 21-9.

The hosts, however, were unwavering in their pursuit of securing the home semi-final which saw Kankowski scoring his second and the side’s fourth try to clinch the bonus-point.

With the monkey of winning with a bonus-point off their back, the Sharks continued their expansive play as they added three more tries to comprehensively beat the leading side of the round robin stage.

JP Pietersen, Jacques Botes and Stefan Terblanche added the final three tries, while Michalak also added two penalty conversions in the final 15 minutes of the match.

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