John Plumtree must have been a frustrated man, after seeing his Sharks side squander a 16-6 half-time lead to go down 22-28 against the Lions at Coca-Cola Park last night.
The Sharks played the most enterprising rugby for much of the game, but had only two first-half tries to show for their efforts after a combination of frustrating mistakes on attack and some good defence from the Lions restricted their ability to score more. Odwa Ndungane and Cobus Reinach scored within minutes of each other, after the first half hour had seen a 6-all stalemate, despite the Sharks enjoying the bulk of possession and territory.
Indiscipline at the start of the second, though, allowed the Lions to claw their way back into the match, with Elton Jantjies in sublime form with the boot. He stroked three kicks over to get his side within a point, before the wheel turned and Meyer Bosman ended up with a kickable opportunity of his own. The Lions, though, were starting to find more space and form with ball in hand and the writing was well on the wall when they eventually did score, via left wing Combrinck, to take a single-point lead. Much controversy – and dare I say hilarity – ensued when the TMO, when called to intervene, somehow ignored a clear knock-on in the build-up to the try and instructed ref Jason Jafhta to award it.
The Sharks, clearly incensed at this injustice and now trailing by a point, threw everything into attack, but a silly chip by Paul Jordaan, followed by some average defence by Dale Chadwick, saw Lions loose forward Jaco Kriel (ironically the man guilty of the above-mentioned knock-on) race away to score the Lions’ second shortly afterwards. Jantjies, amazingly, missed the conversion of both tries, just as Meyer Bosman had done in the first half, leaving a 6-point deficit which the Sharks simply couldn’t overturn, despite a series of good scrum advantages close to the Lions’ line as time ran out.
With the 4-points gained, the Lions move up to clear first on the log, with 24, while the Sharks are now 3 behind on 21, thanks to the losing bonus point they picked up.
Scorers: Lions (28): Tries by Combrinck, Kriel. Penalties by Jantjies (6).
Sharks (22): Tries by Ndungane, Reinach. Penalties by Bosman (4).