SHARKS 34 LIONS 20
Match report courtesy of CapeShark.
Two great line-breaks from Ryan Kankowski, which lead to tries for JP Pietersen and Deon Carstens, ultimately proved the difference in a scrappy encounter at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday night. Kankowski was at his scintillating best showing the value of having a big loose forward with exceptional pace. The Lions for their part showed a lot of hunger and were full value for their money but were let down repeatedly by the temperamental nature of their flyhalf Earl Rose. Rose, to put it bluntly, had a mare, missing all but two of his kicks. He was also directly responsible for two of the Sharks tries; first a charge-down score for Jean Deysel, while an aimless kick into the hands of JP Pietersen led to a try down the others side of the field.
While Earl Rose was single-handedly destroying his team’s chances, the Sharks backs were also contriving to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with sloppy play that at times bordered on comical. Frans Steyn in particular had a game he’d rather forget. The ‘one-step wonder’ looked alarmingly short of ideas on attack on appeared just as clueless on defence repeatedly falling off his opponents. Steyn has shown himself to be a selfish player of late, not a bad thing if you play for a team like the Griffons but when you have the likes of Adi Jacobs and JP Pietersen out wide starved of ball, it’s unforgivable.
The game got off to a cracking start as the Lions showed an early willingness to run the ball and had the Sharks scrambling in defence. Things evened out soon thereafter when it became evident that both teams had brought their kicking boots but left their hands at home. A ping-pong kicking fest was soon to become the feature of the match as both teams tested out the opposition’s back three (much to the annoyance of the spectators). The Lions were first on the board when a slick backline move off first phase saw Louis Ludick neatly loop round and offload to Trompie Nontshinga who brushed off an alarmingly effeminate attempt at a tackle by Stefan Terblanche to score in the corner. Earl Rose fluffed the kick, the first of what would be many to come. The Sharks then charged back into action but were repeatedly undone by bad hands and terrible decision making. Freddie Michalak was largely ineffective against the resilient Lions’ defence and passing it on to Frans Steyn certainly didn’t help matters. With all the possession they had, the Sharks should have been three tries up; instead they ended the half with only a solitary penalty to show for their efforts.
The second half saw the Sharks dominate possession once again, except this time there was a visible purpose and structure in their play. Eventually the passes did go wide, and Kankowski showed his game-breaking ability to put JP Pietersen in the clear. The game came alive in the second half as the Lions hit back with a simple try off a lineout. Jean Deysel was caught napping and allowed Heinke van der Merwe to collect the ball from the lineout and scythe through to score. Some of the more astute players will no doubt recollect that this is precisely how Juan Smith scored his try for the Cheetahs against the Sharks two weeks ago. Something to work on in practise, surely?
But the Lions’ joy was short-lived as Jean Deysel charged down a sloppy attempted clearance by Earl Rose and cantered in to score. This was followed shortly by another killer Kanko linebreak which saw Deon Carstens over the chalk for try number three.
Try number four resulted from some desperate play from the Lions as Earl Rose punted an aimless kick straight down the throat of a charging JP Pietersen. The winger known for his counterattacking runs deftly hacked the ball over the defence and sped downfield to collect it over the tryline. The Lions, who by now had nothing to play for but pride toiled manfully at the Sharks’ line but some great defence from that man Pietersen saw the ball being held up over the line.
Eventually it was left to Pienaar to seal a comfort penalty as the clock ran out.
All in all, a satisfactory effort from the Sharks, who looked particularly solid in the second half. The Bulls, however, will no doubt be rubbing their hands in glee as the Sharks showed a worrisome trend to try play as 15 individuals instead of as a collective team. What is also apparent is that certain individuals are allowed way too much time to try and prove themselves on the field while the ‘impact’ players are entering the fray way too late to make any meaningful impact.Tweet