Wing Ben Lam scored two decisive second-half tries as the Hurricanes claimed a 38-22 win over the previously undefeated Sharks in Wellington on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Sharks started their season with two good wins over the Vodacom Bulls and Highlanders, but in this high-octane clash with the Hurricanes, they were brought back down to reality with a thud.
While every bounce of the ball seemed to go the way of the Durban side in last weekend’s match against the Highlanders, this time around they just came off second best in several key areas of the game, while having little answer to the Canes’ fluent passing game.
The Sharks also suffered two early personnel blows when first Makazole Mapimpi was unable to return to play after failing a HIA test, while talented flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain then left the field before the first quarter was complete.
It was a particularly disruptive double departure considering the Sharks had taken the risk of coming into this game with a 6-2 forwards-to-backs split on the bench. It meant regular centre Jeremy Ward had to fill in on the wing, while diminutive scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba slotted in at 10.
To the Sharks’ enduring credit, though, they still found a way to lead 14-10 at the 25-minute mark, with Lukhanyo Am and Madosh Tambwe featuring prominently as the visitors recorded two tries to one early on.
However, it did seem that the Canes were slowly growing in confidence, with Ngani Laumape scoring a beautiful try next to send the home side back into the lead after a truly frenetic opening half an hour.
The Sharks did manage to draw the scores level before the break, but they would have been concerned about their malfunctioning set piece (particularly at lineout time), an inordinately high turnover rate and the fact that they had run out of backline substitutes.
Those worries were compounded when Lam did what he does best, scoring two superb solo tries early in the second half to suddenly help send the hosts into a decisive 31-17 lead.
The result was eventually wrapped up when Dane Coles went over for the Canes’ fifth try in the 65th minute, and despite a consolation try to Mzamo Majola, the Sharks will be left to lament this error-riddled performance.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) February 15, 2020
Hurricanes – Tries: Wes Goosen, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam (2), Dane Coles. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (5). Penalty: Barrett.
Sharks – Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Tyler Paul, Mzamo Majola. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba, Boeta Chamberlain. Penalty: Nohamba.
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Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Billy Proctor.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikumbuzo Notshe, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Mzamo Majola, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Phendulani Buthelezi, 22 Sanele Nohamba, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Photo: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images