The Sharks moved to the top of the South African conference despite suffering an agonising 29-23 defeat to the Chiefs in Waikato on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
What an entertaining game this was. Yes, there were plenty of handling errors in difficult conditions, but both sides played their part in a drama-filled affair that went down to the wire.
Ultimately, two late tries to the Chiefs proved decisive, while condemning the Sharks to their first defeat on tour, following a win over the Waratahs and draw against the Crusaders. Nevertheless, a losing bonus point still takes the Durban-based side ahead of the Vodacom Bulls and Jaguares in the local standings.
The opening quarter of this clash was filled with plenty of endeavour and some rousing attacking forays from both sides. On more than one occasion – with Curwin Bosch, S’bu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassie featuring prominently – the Sharks cut the Chiefs’ defence open, but all too often a handling error killed the movement at a key moment.
As it was, the Chiefs then punished the Sharks largely against the run of play just before the half-an-hour mark, with Brad Weber going over under the posts to help send his side into a 10-0 lead.
In the blink of an eye, though, the Sharks hit right back as Bosch knocked over a penalty, before lanky lock Hyron Andrews strode away to score a try virtually from the restart. All of a sudden, the scores were level.
Although it would be the Chiefs who struck before the break with an important try to Mitchell Karpik, momentum swung back the way of the visitors when the hosts saw a man sent to the sin bin, while Ruan Botha scored soon after.
Bosch slotted the conversion and a penalty soon after, but the Chiefs changed the complexion of the clash with two quickfire tries to Anton Lienert-Brown and Weber to surge back into the lead with nine minutes to play.
The Sharks did launch one final, extended attack as they went in search of a match-winning try, but the Chiefs’ defence ultimately held out, with Tyler Ardron pulling off a remarkable tackle on Bosch.
Chiefs – Tries: Brad Weber (2), Mitchell Karpik, Anton Lienert-Brown. Conversions: Marty McKenzie (3). Penalties: McKenzie.
Sharks – Tries: Hyron Andrews, Ruan Botha. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (3).
Chiefs – 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Jesse Parete, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Subs: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Sharks –15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk.