Sharks match Report

SHARKS (15) 28

HIGHLANDERS (9) 16

by Mike Greenaway at Kings Park

Way back in 1997, Gavin “Flawless” Lawless scored a to-this-day Super Rugby record 50 points against the Highlanders at Kings Park in a match won 75-46 by the Durbanites, but in the context of a very different match last night between the same teams at the same venue, one wonders if the 28 scored by Patrick Lambie was still more illustrious?

Quite possibly given that that the ’97 match was early in the Sharks’ campaign, with relatively little riding on it and well over 100 points were scored, but this was a tight, testy, often tedious and anything but salubrious encounter fought in less than convivial circumstances given the rain that fell in the second half and the wind that blew in the first.

The Sharks were fighting for their lives in the competition and knew that a second consecutive home loss (to go with the defeat to the Chiefs in their last match) would probably remove them from play-off contention and they accordingly reduced risk from their play, while the Highlanders were forced into an uncharacteristic arm wrestle and each time they came close to breaking the stranglehold, Lambie would strike home a penalty.

These teams were in the top five in the competition try-scoring stakes going into the match yet they managed only one apiece such was the savage trench warfare they waged against each other, and each time the Dunedin side was caught with a head above the parapet by referee Steve Walsh, Lambie struck it clean between the eyes.

He kicked seven penalties in all and in the second half was on hand to round off a striking attack from the deep when Keegan Daniel had broken clear from his 22 and from the half way line hoofed it towards the posts, where the bounce was favourable for the hard-chasing flyhalf.

It was a match where defences ruled supreme and momentum was terribly hard to come by. Line-breaks were non-existent in the first half but they became increasingly prevalent for the visitors after half time, but on only one occasion produced a try, when replacement centre Siale Piutau scored out wide.

Early during the week at a press conference at the Shark Tank, coach John Plumtree had applauded referee Marius Jonker for heavily blowing the Highlanders at the breakdown (during their win over the Cheetahs) for not staying on their feet, and he hoped that this week’s referee, Steve Walsh, would follow suit, and Plumtree got his wish as Patrick Lambie was able to blast over four penalties in the opening quarter, as opposed to one to Highlanders flyhalf Mike Delany, who equalised in the fifth minute after Lambie had opened the scoring shortly after kick-off.

That nine-point cushion was vital in a tight game where the Sharks reigned in the impetuosity that had characterised their campaign to this point and opted for a safety-first game which was in accordance with the gravity of their situation on the log – another home loss would have seen them hard pressed to make the play-offs.

It helped that Delany missed two long-range efforts into a fresh South Easterly in that first half.

But in the 25th minute he could not miss directly in front of the posts, a position achieved when the Sharks handsomely won a lineout on their 10m line but then scrappily tossed the ball down into no-man’s land and it was hacked to the Sharks’ try line, where defenders infringed in reckless defence.

And on 32 minutes, Walsh yellow-carded Jacques Botes for coming in from the side of a ruck, in the red zone of the Sharks 22, and the score was narrowed to 9-12, and the Sharks to 14 men.

But a minute before the break, Lambie kicked a vital penalty in the context of this tight-scoring game to restore the six-point cushion.

Ten minutes into the second half the visitors deservedly scored Piutau’s try when their pressure play resulted in extra numbers out wide, only for Lambie to nail two more penalties and then finish off after Daniels’ break, and from there, with just minutes to go, it never really mattered what the Highlanders did in their avalanche on the Sharks’ line.

Scorers

Sharks: Try: Patrick Lambie: Conversion: Lambie. Penalties: Lambie (7)

Highlanders: Try: Siale Piutau. Penalties: Mike Delany (3). Conversion: Delany

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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