Pat Lambie slotted an 80th-minute penalty to hand the Sharks a 25-22 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Under immense pressure, Lambie displayed his nerves of steel once again as he calmly converted a tricky angled penalty – his sixth of the night – to hand the Sharks an all-important victory.
In fairness, the Sharks were on the back foot for much of the second half, having led by just two points at the break, but their typically courageous defence once again paved the way for a hard-fought win.
The Sharks suffered a blow before kick-off, with scrumhalf Michael Claassens unable to start, while there was also a horrible moment in the first half when flanker Jean Deysel landed awkwardly on his neck and had to be stretchered off the field.
In light of these disruptions, and considering they had just 37% of possession in the match, they'll gladly bank the four log points and happily head back to Durban knowing that the Lions are still well within their sights in the Africa 2 conference.
Although the Jaguares have had their struggles this season, the Argentinian side was always expected to be highly competitive back in Buenos Aires, and they certainly made an encouraging start as lock Tomás Lavanini went over for the opening try as early as the eighth minute.
Uncharacteristically, the Sharks’ defence let them down in the opening half an hour, with nine missed tackles proving costly. The Jaguares continued to stretch the Sharks’ defence early on, and scrumhalf Martín Landajo would be the next to score when he was awarded a try in the 18th minute to take his side out to a 14-6 lead.
However, the Jaguares’ discipline continued to let them down, and Lambie was able to keep the scoreboard ticking over as the home side’s penalty count racked up to nine in the opening half.
Flanker Pablo Matera was also shown a yellow card after repeated infringements, and soon after he was sent off, Sharks No 8 Dan du Preez was able to power over the tryline to take his side into the lead for the first time with five minutes remaining in the half.
Jaguares flyhalf Nicolás Sánchez would have the final say of the opening period when he slotted his second penalty just before the break, but the Sharks would have been happy to hold on to a 19-17 lead.
The Sharks would have also been pleased with their returns at scrum time in the first half, but occasional scrappy lineout work would have been a source of frustration, while the Jaguares also spoiled to good effect at the breakdown.
The Durban-based side would have known the importance of scoring first after the interval and they did just that when Lambie slotted a fifth penalty, but with a new front row and reshuffled pack in place, the Sharks began to battle at scrum time.
The visitors conceded three scrum penalties 5m from their tryline midway through the second half, but just as they faced the prospect of conceding a penalty try, the pack stepped up and turned the tables to relieve some immense pressure.
With the Jaguares beginning to dominate possession and the Sharks’ penalty count creeping up, referee Marius van der Westhuizen finally lost patience and sent replacement S’bura Sithole to the sin bin after he strayed offside.
Having had to absorb an extended period of pressure on defence, the Sharks’ resolve finally gave way as prop Santiago García Botta barged over from close range to draw the scores level with eight minutes left to play. Yet, there would be one final twist as Lambie stepped up to win the match for the Durban-based outfit.
Jaguares – Tries: Tomás Lavanini, Martín Landajo, Santiago García Botta. Conversions: Nicolás Sánchez (2). Penalty: Sánchez.
Sharks – Try: Dan du Preez. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalties: Lambie (6).
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie (c), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chilliboy Ralepelle/Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Garth April, 23 S'bura Sithole.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Getty_Images