Birthday-boy Bizzie saves the Sharks
THE sense of relief was palpable on the faces of the Sharks players as they finally broke their six-match losing streak beating the Reds 21-14 in Brisbane yesterday.
A high tempo game will have kept both Reds and Sharks fans on the edge of their seats but the hunger of the visitors saw them through at the end.
The game was won at the breakdown with Marcell Coetzee, Renaldo Bothma and Bismarck du Plessis the champions of the Sharks’ cause. Du Plessis, who was celebrating his 31st birthday, made six turnovers altogether and proved a thorn in the Reds’ side all night.
The Durban outfit now head home with a number of injury concerns picked up in the hard-fought battle at Suncorp Stadium.
The match started with the Sharks failing to exit off the kickoff which gave the Reds an early chance to attack. The visitors weathered an early storm before exiting their half.
Inside centre Frans Steyn slotted the first points of the evening. Play saw the ball kicked down to Reds fullback James O’Connor, who had his return kick charged down. The Sharks grabbed the ball and went on the attack but the Reds were caught offside and Steyn made no mistake breaking the deadlock.
The visitors managed to stymie a number of the Reds’ attacking moves in the next 10 minutes thanks to some crucial turnovers at the breakdown.
Lineout time was a slight lottery for the Sharks in the first half as the hosts contested every one of the Sharks’ throw-ins. But they were much improved in the second half, with captain Marco Wentzel standing out.
The first try of the night came from scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer. The nippy halfback sprinted around the blindside off a scrum and beat the cover defence to score in the corner for his first Super Rugby try. Steyn added the extras to give the Sharks a 10-0 lead after 17 minutes.
Again the Reds struggled to look after their ball at the breakdown and the Sharks capitalised by dominating territory.
However, the Reds kept them out and it was from a lineout that they struck back with a try of their own.
A strong run from centre Samu Kerevi deep inside the Reds half gave the hosts the impetus for their first score. The ball was offloaded a couple of times before it went loose with what looked like a knock on. But replays showed Sharks centre JP Pietersen had knocked the ball back and the next few passes saw wing Chris Kuridrani score in the left corner. O’Connor slotted the extras.
After a little bit of kicking ping-pong, Steyn slotted another penalty from a Reds scrum infringement.
The Sharks lost lock Stephan Lewies around the half hour. The Springbok landed awkwardly on his knee at a lineout and went off with a torn patella tendon (knee cap).
Steyn added another penalty just before the break from yet another scrum penalty to make it 16-7.
The Reds were made to tackle after a long string of phases at the start of the first half. Play then switched hands for the next 10 minutes.
Despite some scrambling defence, the Sharks couldn’t deny the Reds their second try. A number of phases saw Kerevi score, bulldozing over the line for a converted try to make it 16-14 with half an hour to play.
The Sharks seemed to struggle somewhat after Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn left the field injured. The visitors also lost reserve prop Dale Chadwick to injury during the second stanza.
The game was decided in the most bizarre of moments. After a long period of open play in which the ball moved from either side of the field, O’Connor kicked the ball straight into Ungerer’s hands on the tryline. The scrumhalf dived over for his second of the night to make it 21-14.
The last 10 minutes was played at a frenetic pace with the visitors doing most of the defending. They managed to pin the Reds in their half and close out the game.
Sharks 21 (16) Tries: Ungerer (2) Conversions: Steyn (1) Penalties: Frans Steyn (3)
Reds 14 (7) Tries: Kuridrani, Kerevi. Conversions: O’ Connor (2)