Sharks fightback stuns Reds
Willem Alberts stops Ben Tapuai in his tracks (Gallo Images)
Durban - Second-half tries from Keegan Daniel and Riaan Viljoen helped the Sharks complete a stunning turnaround as they edged out a thrilling 27-22 Super Rugby victory over the Reds at Kings Park on Saturday.
The home side had trailed 17-0 at one stage to the defending champions after early tries by James Hanson and Scott Higginbotham.
But Jandre Marais scored before half-time and Daniel and Viljoen touched down either side of a Nick Frisby effort as the coastal side held on for a crucial win ahead of a four-match trip to Australia and New Zealand starting next week.
At the start, the Queensland outfit managed to score from their first attack when James Horwill won his own line-out and Hanson found a way through the maul as he burst through to touch the ball down one-handed.
Mike Harris added the conversion, but then missed a penalty in swirling conditionS after an error from hooker Bismarck du Plessis.
It was all the Reds thereafter with Higginbotham going in under the posts after superb play from the backs to take the ball wide and forward again after the Sharks failed to find touch with an ordinary clearance by flyhalf Patrick Lambie.
Ben Lucas looped over a simple conversion to make it 14-0 after 26 minutes.
More erring from the home side and vice-captain Du Plessis, who was caught off-side, allowed Lucas another chance at goal which he successfully completed, before the Reds’ momentum was finally halted in the 34th minute.
Marais had just come onto the field to replace the injured Steven Sykes and ran onto a thrown up pass from Charl McLeod to force his way over - Lambie adding the conversion.
Lwazi Mvovo was then denied a try after Willem Alberts was spotted going dangerously into a tackle.
Another precarious tackle by Digby Ioane on Marcell Coetzee resulted in a yellow card for the winger, with Lambie slotting over the resulting penalty to further cut the gap heading into half-time (10-17).
Straight after the restart, Lambie narrowed the gap to four with another penalty, while Coetzee and Mvovo wasted straightforward chances to draw their side level.
But they finally managed to take the lead in the 55th minute when skipper Daniel picked up at the base of the scrum and scampered through a tiring Reds defence to score.
Lambie converted, but straight after the restart, Ioane and Frisby won a sprint down the right with the former setting up the latter to score after the Sharks threw away possession.
However, the hosts did the same thing from the next kick-off with Viljoen dummying smartly and cutting inside to score another converted try on the right.
It proved the final score as the home side held on for a second win of the campaign.
Bismarck du Plessis was named Man of the Match.
Sharks: Tries: Jandre Marais, Keegan Daniel, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Patrick Lambie (3) Penalties: Lambie (2).
Reds: Tries: James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Frisby. Conversions: Mike Harris, Ben Lucas. Penalty: Ben Lucas