Johannesburg - The Sharks kept the Blues scoreless in the second half of their Super 14 encounter at the Absa Stadium on Saturday night to record a hard-fought 23-10 win over the New Zealanders.
There was no try-scoring bonus-point for the Sharks, something they would have dearly loved as they try to stay in semi-final contention, but it was a well-deserved win nonetheless.
The coastal franchise started the match in dominant fashion, camping in the Blues half for literally the entire first 10 minutes, but some crucial errors let them down and ultimately they had nothing to show for their early ascendancy.
However, in the Blues’ first foray into the Sharks 22, they were gifted three points as the Sharks needlessly conceded a penalty, and flyhalf Stephen Brett duly slotted the kick.
The Sharks were dealt another blow when winger JP Pietersen suffered an injury and was replaced by young Lwazi Mvovo in the 20th minute.
At the same time, though, the Sharks tied things up as scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar stepped up to kick his first penalty of the night.
Yet throughout the season the Blues have proven that they will run the ball from anywhere and their choice to do so from within their 22 eventually ended in their first try of the night.
After working their way up to halfway, Brett cut through a gap and timed his off-load perfectly as No 8 Peter Saili gathered up the pass and cantered under the posts for the easiest of tries, which was routinely converted by Brett.
Pienaar quickly cut the deficit back to four points with a penalty soon after and then was the man to go over for the team’s first try after extended pressure right on the tryline. He missed the difficult conversion though, as the Sharks went into half-time with a narrow 11-10 lead.
After another strong start to the second half, the Sharks were the first to score as flyhalf Andy Goode took over the kicking duties from Pienaar and slotted a penalty.
The Blues then had a chance to reply soon afterwards, but opted not to take the three points on offer and instead kicked to the corner, which backfired horribly as they were penalised at the ensuing lineout.
Strangely, they then opted to go for a far tougher kick a few minutes later, and from 47metres out, Brett missed by some distance.
Importantly, in the 68th minute, Sharks replacement Rory Kockott made his presence felt as he struck a crucial 53 metre penalty to take his team into a seven-point lead, and not long after he took them out of range with another three-pointer.
Putting the final nail in the coffin, Pienaar then struck a late drop-goal as the Sharks extended their winning streak to five games.
Tries: Ruan Pienaar Conversions: Penalties: Ruan Pienaar (2), Andy Goode, Rory Kockott (2) Drop-goal: Ruan Pienaar
Tries: Peter Saili Conversions: Stephen Brett Penalties: Stephen Brett