The Sharks came from behind in their match against the Cheetahs on Saturday night, calling on all their experience to overturn a fifteen point deficit at half time, to come away with a bonus point victory, winning 34 – 32 after an entertaining match.
After a slow start to the match, with penalties from Meyer Bosman and Nico Scheepers in the early exchanges, the game really got going minutes before half time, when the Cheetahs managed to score two tries to take a 15 point lead at the break.
The second half from the Sharks was not perfect, but far better than what they put up in the first, scoring four tries and showing that they have what it takes to win this competition.
The Sharks dominated territory from kick off, taking only four minutes to get their first points on the board through the boot of Meyer Bosman. Once the Cheetahs got ball and territory, they did look dangerous, with the Sharks asked to defend multiple phases. It took ten minutes for the Cheetahs to reply to the first score of the game, with Nico Scheepers doing the kicking for the Bloem team.
The Sharks got a penalty almost immediately after the Cheetahs equalised, but opted for an attacking lineout. Another penalty led to quick tap being taken, which was the wrong option as the Cheetahs got possession from a handling error, and cleared the ball. The Sharks again attacked, but conceded a penalty at the breakdown, allowing the Cheetahs to clear.
The Sharks had a try disallowed after Paul Jordaan crossed the chalk untouched, only for the TMO to rule that there was obstruction in the lead up to the try, giving the Cheetahs the opportunity to get out of their own half. The ensuing play led to the Cheetahs having another go at goal, Scheepers giving the Cheetahs the lead.
The Sharks made most of the play, but again got penalised at the breakdown, which led to the Cheetahs getting into the Sharks half, allowing Sias Ebersohn to line up a drop goal to double the lead to 6 points. After a long period of stop start play, with tempers flaring amongst the forwards, Bosman was finally able to pull back the deficit to three points, with five minutes to play in the first half.
The next few minutes of play undid all the good work the Sharks did in the first 35 minutes of this match. First, Sarel Pretorius scored the easiest of tries after a blunder from kick off, then a turnover by the Sharks put the Cheetahs winger Raymond Rhule away to score the second try in a matter of two minutes, stretching the lead to 15 points at half time, with Scheepers missing his first kick of the night.
The second half started in much the same way as the first half started, with the Sharks getting a penalty after a good build-up. The attacking lineout was preferred to the three points, and again the decision was rued as the Sharks could not get over the chalk. The Sharks kept the pressure up though, and with the Cheetahs conceding multiple offside penalties, and the ref’s warnings running out, the Sharks tried yet again. Finally, Riaan Viljoen crossed the line and got the Sharks their first try of the match. Bosman converted a difficult chance to make it an eight point game.
This seemed to wake the Sharks, and the supporters up, and they built phases from the kick off, deep into Cheetahs territory, forcing the penalty and setting up yet another attacking lineout. Obstruction at the ensuing drive gave the Cheetahs some relief. The Cheetahs finally got some ball, and this led to Nico Scheepers getting his first shot at goal for the second half, the Cheetahs happy to keep building the lead. With just under half an hour to play, the Cheetahs still had an eleven point lead.
A fantastic bit of work from Nico Scheepers, and Sias Ebersohn, led to the Cheetahs’ third try. Ebersohn spotted a massive gap behind the Sharks line, kicked a beaut that stayed in play and Scheepers never gave up chasing, which resulted in a five pointer for the Cheetahs, the winger unable to convert his own try. The Cheetahs were sitting pretty with a sixteen point lead.
The Sharks had the opportunity to hit back immediately, but Jean Deysel chose not to pass to a 5 man overlap from 5m out, resulting in the ball going into touch and the Sharks having to build from outside the 22m. The Sharks again made hard work of good ball inside the Cheetahs 22m, but somehow managed to put Odwa Ndungane over in the corner for the second try for the home side, leaving Bosman with another touchline kick for the extras, which he duly added.
The Sharks allowed Scheepers to have another go at goal, which he could not convert, letting the Sharks off the hook and still with a nine point deficit. The play resulting from the 22m drop out allowed Sias Ebersohn to land his second drop goal of the night, putting the pressure firmly on the Sharks. They did themselves no favours by not kicking the kick off 10m.
A second try for Odwa Ndungane got the Sharks back in the game, following a good build-up of phases, which was converted by Bosman from in front of the poles, and the Sharks were five points behind with 13 minutes to play.
The Sharks, again building phases from deep inside their own half, managed to score the fourth try through Meyer Bosman, completing a wonderful move which was originally set up by a break from Paul Jordaan. Bosman converted his own try and the Sharks took the lead for the first time since the 16th minute of the game. This was the last score of the match, as the Sharks came from behind to win this exciting match.
Negatives from the game; The Sharks got pinned at the breakdown repeatedly for going off their feet, with the players there in their numbers, but going off their feet in an attempt the secure the ball. They also kept losing possession for trying to get the ball away after being tackled, but the fifty-fifty passes just did not stick on the night, which hampered momentum.
Positives from the game; The Sharks put the Cheetahs under pressure at scrum time, making it very difficult for Sarel Pretorius to have the desired impact from the back of the set piece. Even though they let through three tries, the Sharks defence held strong when the Cheetahs were camping in the 22m, with the Sharks leaking tries from broken play.
Tries: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane (2), Meyer Bosman
Conversions: Meyer Bosman (4 from 4)
Penalties: Meyer Bosman (2 from 2)
Tries: Sarel Pretorius, Raymond Rhule, Nico Scheepers
Conversions: Nico Scheepers (1 from 3)
Penalties: Nico Scheepers (3 from 4)
Drop Goal: Sias Ebersohn (2 from 2)