The Brumbies were the stronger and tactically superior team in their 16-9 victory against the Sharks on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The scoreline flatters the Sharks. They did well to stay in touch with the Brumbies throughout the contest, and they had an opportunity to score a try at the death and draw the match. Ultimately, it was the Brumbies' determined defence that had the final say, as they forced the Sharks into yet another handling error.
The wet weather in Canberra tested both teams, and a number of points went begging. Sharks flyhalf Frans Steyn missed three shots at goal, while the Brumbies' Christian Leali'ifano and Nic White missed four between them.
The rain forced both sets of teams to play conservatively, and employ kick-chase tactics. The Sharks had the upper hand initially, although the momentum shifted in the second half as the Brumbies' kickers started to contribute with some accurate garryowens.
It was a physical battle, and the Brumbies will feel that they won the collisions and the breakdowns. Against all expectations, they troubled the Sharks' Springbok-laden scrum, forcing a series of penalties that allowed them to obtain territory and, in some instances, points.
Apart from the Sharks forwards' failure to fire, Steyn had an absolute shocker. The conditions were difficult for the goal-kickers, but a player of his calibre would have been expected to convert more scoring opportunities. Steyn was also guilty of missing touch on occasion, or making the grave error of sending a kick-off directly over the line.
The game produced only one try, in the 63rd minute. The Brumbies had the Sharks under pressure for a sustained period and finally managed to penetrate the visitors' defence. White put Sam Carter through a hole, and the lock's try was converted by Leali'ifano to hand the Brumbies a commanding 16-6 lead.
Steyn kicked a penalty to bring the Sharks back to within seven points of the Brumbies. They had their chances to close the gap and secure a draw, but their poor handling and lack of physicality cost them in the end.
The Brumbies were the better side on the night, and perhaps the Sharks should feel pleased that they managed to salvage a losing bonus point from this encounter. Had Leali'ifano been more successful in front of goal, the Sharks would have finished the game with nothing.
Brumbies – Try: Sam Carter. Conversion: Christian Leali'ifano. Penalties: Leali'ifano (3).
Sharks – Penalties: Frans Steyn (3).
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Fotu Auelua, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe.
Sharks – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 SP Marais.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Apart from a couple of handling errors, Sharks fullback Lwazi Mvovo was safe under the high ball and made a lot of ground for the visitors with ball in hand.
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