Riaan Viljoen scored a last-minute try to give the Sharks a 22-20 victory over the Blues in Durban, reports GARETH DUNCAN.
After trailing 17-5 at half-time, a strong start to the second half saw the Blues surge into a 20-17 lead.
The Sharks took control during the final quarter, but lacked composure as they struggled to land the killer blow.
Pat Lambie had a disappointing afternoon with the boot, missing four penalties. His poor form is a huge concern, considering that 2013 was expected to be his season to shine at flyhalf. The 23-year-old has failed to live up to the hype.
However, the Sharks created a last chance at the death. The heavies powered into the opposition’s red zone from a midfield lineout before the ball was spread wide. Louis Ludik’s offload to Viljoen saw the fullback crash over in the corner. Lambie missed the conversion, but it didn't matter.
The Sharks pack deserve most of the credit for this win. They laid the platform for a superior first-half display, while their efforts during the final 40, especially on defence, kept their side in the game.
Their grunt up front saw the Sharks control proceedings from the outset. Through two strong forward drives, Marcell Coetzee and Charl McLeod went over from the fringes. Lambie added all the extras.
The Sharks flyhalf was then bumped over by wing Frank Halai, who powered through for the Blues’ opening try.
Lambie, who had missed two penalties, finally landed a first three-pointer on the stroke of half-time to give the Sharks a comfortable advantage.
The Blues started the second half well, crossing the line twice. Halai completed his double as he found space out wide, while Rene Ranger bumped off Lambie’s tackle attempt for an easy run-in behind the posts.
Chris Noakes added the conversion before Baden Kerr kicked the Blues into the lead with his first penalty in the 61st minute.
Lambie missed his fourth penalty 10 minutes from time, which would have levelled matters, but Viljoen scored the deciding try during the final passage of play to see the Sharks triumph.
Sharks – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalty: Lambie.
Blues – Tries: Frank Halai (2), Rene Ranger. Conversion: Chris Noakes. Penalty: Baden Kerr.
Sharks – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Butch James, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Daniel Mienie, 18 Jandré Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22. Jaco van Tonder.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Kane Barrett, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Rene Ranger.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images
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