The Sharks beat the Highlanders in a close encounter at Mr Price Kings Park on Saturday night, beating them 28 – 16 in a game in which Pat Lambie scored all the points for the men from Durban. The Sharks kept their slim hopes of being involved in the playoffs alive, but did not impress to the point of any of the fans out there believing that they will have any say should they in fact be involved come finals time.
The Sharks got off to a good start, with Pat Lambie getting the scoreboard ticking early through a penalty, thanks to a breakdown infringement from the Highlanders. It did not take the Highlanders long to hit back, with Mike Delany taking advantage of a Sharks offside infringement.
The Sharks shoved the Highlanders scrum deep inside the 22m and won a penalty for Lambie to convert, taking back the three point lead. The Highlanders were then caught offside and Lambie kept the scoreboard ticking with a further three points, and the pressure was kept on the side from New Zealand and not even a minute later, Lambie was lining up another shot at goal for an infringement at the breakdown. Lambie slotted from the halfway mark and the lead was a healthy nine points.
Delany, after missing two kicks at goal, converted an easy penalty from right in front, after the Sharks somehow lost 30m from their own lineout, with numerous passes going to ground. The Sharks’ ill-discipline was costing them early in the game with numerous penalties and team warnings, which eventually led to Jacques Botes getting 10 minutes in the bin for going offside in the red zone at ruck time. Delany converted the ensuing penalty to bring the Highlanders back to within three points.
With half time approaching, the Sharks managed to put together a few phases, after which they got a penalty for Lambie to stroke over the poles. The Sharks were making basic errors and trying to play running rugby from behind the advantage line. A disappointing half for the Sharks but still a six point lead with forty still to play.
The first try of the match was scored by Kurt Baker, a late inclusion in the side after the injury to Buxton Popoalii, which was converted by Delany. The Sharks again had possession and managed to get penalised at the lineout, and the Highlanders took full advantage of a massive overlap to score the try.
The Sharks seemed to have finally woken up, and twice looked dangerous on attack, only for the error bug to bite and possession being lost. Patrick Lambie did manage to get the lead back for the Sharks through a penalty, but the distinct lack of try scoring ability was hampering the Sharks greatly.
Lambie got the opportunity to stretch the lead to four points on the three quarter mark, after the Highlanders were again blown up for offside play, after a great turnover by the Sharks at the breakdown. He slotted a difficult kick with the rain coming down now, taking the score to 21 – 16.
The Highlanders started making errors and within minutes of the penalty taken, Paul Jordaan collected after a nice break from Keegan Daniel, chipped ahead and somehow Lambie got the ball over the line and scored a five pointer, which he himself made a seven pointer, to take the lead to an impressive 12 points.
The Sharks implemented an aerial/kicking game once the rain started, which worked in their favour as the try came from a loose ball and the Highlanders making numerous handling errors as a result of the kicks. This led to good territory for the Sharks as the game was played inside the Highlanders half for long periods in the last quarter.
The basic errors that we have seen throughout the season was still evident, with loose passes, penalties not being kicked out and handling errors (before it started raining) keeping the Sharks on the back foot.
The Sharks played for the win and got it, thanks largely to errors made by the Highlanders, and not through their own initiative. The lack of try scoring opportunities is a clear indication of how exactly the Sharks played this game. It is interesting to note that coach John Plumtree did not make unnecessary substitutions, as we saw the first change only in the 70th minute of the game, with Jena Deysel and Wiehahn Herbst the only subs to get ten minutes.
Paul Jordaan, who many have been calling for his inclusion, made very little impact, due to no fault of his own, as the backline simply got no ball on the front foot.
Tries: Pat Lambie
Conversions: Pat Lambie (1 from 1
Penalties: Pat Lambie (7 from 7
Tries: Kurt Baker
Conversions: Mike Delany (1 from 1)
Penalties: Mike Delany (3 from 5