The Chiefs beat the Sharks 18 – 12 at Kings Park on Saturday night, cementing their place at the top of the overall log and securing nine points from their South African tour. The Sharks go into their bye weekend having lost their first home game of the season, and pretty much out of the running of a play-off spot.
The opening minutes of the match were intense, with the Sharks camping in the Chiefs half and attacking wave after wave, with the Chiefs’ defence holding strong. The Sharks could not manage to get that one last pass away to put a man over the tryline, after spending time in the 22m.
The Sharks’ handling let them down time after time, not able to capitalise on the turnovers won in contact, with the Chiefs able to attack from a scrum platform 15m out. The Chiefs built a few phases from this scrum and Aaron Cruden strolled over for the five pointer, which he duly converted and put his team in the lead.
The Sharks had the ideal opportunity to calm the game down and take three points, but instead opted for the attacking lineout, which was thrown too high, and the Chiefs were able to clear. Minutes later the Sharks again had a penalty which was turned down for the attacking lineout, but Lambie failed to kick out and the Sharks kept putting themselves under pressure.
The Sharks once again attempted to run the ball from their own 22m, but a pass from Viljoen went to ground, after which the Sharks were penalised at the ruck, allowing Cruden to extend the lead by adding a further three points. The Sharks were camping in the Chiefs half before half time, but their handling let them down on countless occasions, after which the Chiefs were penalised and sense finally came through with Lambie banging over three points on the hooter.
The score could have been much closer had the Sharks been sensible and taken their shots at goal, with their ball skills letting them down with poor passes and even worse handling. The lineouts were also a concern at half time, with at least three lineouts going awry. Marcell Coetzee came on at half time to replace Willem Alberts, who did not have the best first half.
The second started better for the Sharks, again having a majority of the ball, and being in a better position territorially, and managed to get the Chiefs to transgress after seven or so minutes, for Lambie to line up and double the Sharks’ score, cutting the deficit to four points.
The Sharks managed to string a few passes together on a counter attack and again found themselves in the Chiefs 22m, where the Sharks forced a penalty at scrum time, and Lambie kept the Sharks in the game through his boot by cutting the deficit to only one point. Minutes later, the Chiefs had the opportunity to extend their lead, after Bismarck was penalised at the breakdown, but the quick was taken and subsequently lost as the Sharks competed well at the breakdown.
An up and under from the Chiefs resulted in Lwazi Mvovo being taken in a no arms tackle, which lead to him being taken off the field, with the tackler Masaga also leaving the field looking rather dazed and confused as to which country he is in. Play continued in the Sharks half and Daniel was penalised at the breakdown, and Cruden duly punished the Sharks by adding three points to their score.
The Sharks hit back almost immediately, with the Chiefs going offside and Lambie again pulled it back to a one point ball game, with 15 minutes to play. The Sharks had the opportunity minutes later to take the lead for the first time in the match, with Whitehead winning the Sharks a penalty at the breakdown, and Lambie lining up from the half way line. The ball came up just short and the Sharks were left trailing still.
Both teams made plenty of handling errors, turning over ball throughout, but it was the Chiefs who had the next opportunity to score points, but Cruden was short and to the right with his 50m shot at goal. The Sharks were left having to run the ball as time was running out, and made good ground through Marcell Coetzee, but Burden isolated himself and the Chiefs cleared upfield.
The Sharks had one last opportunity to run at the Chiefs, but a skip pass went straight into touch and with that the Chiefs had the ball game, or so we all thought. The Chiefs used their chance to score a try through reserve scrumhalf Augustine Pulu, and could have prevented the Sharks from scoring a bonus point had Cruden kicked the conversion.
The Sharks were let down by the basics yet again, with poor handling and silly passes costing them scoring opportunities. The Sharks will be very disappointed to not have made the home advantage count in playing catch up to on the log.
Penalties: Pat Lambie (4 from 4)
Tries: Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu
Conversion: Aaron Cruden (1 from 2)
Penalties: Aaron Cruden (2 from 2)