The Sharks made it three wins in a row after holding off a resurgent Reds outfit 30-28 in a scintillating Super 14 clash on Saturday.
The Sharks made it three wins in a row after holding off a resurgent Reds outfit 30-28 in a scintillating Super 14 clash in Durban on Saturday.
The home side were outscored four tries to three and had to make 94 tackles compared to the Reds' 64, which speaks volumes of the home team's determination to keep their visitors from causing another upset.
The balance of power hung on a knife's edge from start to finish as neither side wanted to come out of the game defeated.
Tries either side of half-time from Will Chambers, coupled with an earlier Quade Cooper effort, earned the visitors a commanding 12-point lead at one stage, only for scores from Odwa Ndungane, Jacques Botes and JP Pietersen to hand the initiative back to the hosts.
Greg Holmes' late try proved only to be a consolation as John Plumtree's men held on to make it three wins on the trot to revive their play-off chances.
The Reds played the game at a lightening pace, hoping to catch the Sharks late in the game when the effects of travel fatigue could count against them. But the Sharks started off dominating proceedings and gave nothing to the visitors who had precious little possession to work with.
Played at a high tempo, the Sharks employed a physical game, looking to dominate at the collision areas and managed to steal a number of balls off the Reds at the breakdown.
The Sharks came out all guns blazing with one attack followed by another during the opening 10 minutes, but their only reward was three points from the boot of Ruan Pienaar – Adam Byrnes conceding the initial penalty after incorrect entry into a maul.
Having weathered that early storm, the visitors then took the lead with their first attack after Will Genia recycled quickly to Cooper, whose quick-stepping fooled three defenders as he went over under the posts.
The fly-half put over the easy conversion, before the Sharks began to rebuild again.
They should have cut the deficit before the game reached the quarter mark, but Pienaar struck the upright with his second kick – awarded after Anthony Faingaa failed to release in the tackle.
But the nippy number nine made amends by sending over two more penalties – both conceded by the Australian side at the breakdown – to put the Sharks ahead.
Botes then erred at the base of a ruck for his side, handing Cooper another kick at goal but this time he missed the 45-metre attempt.
Cooper then showed excellent vision when his cross-field kick picked out Luke Morahan, but the winger failed to gather with the try-line gaping. But Chambers did ensure the visitors an interval lead, running into a gap and riding two tackles to score on the stroke of half-time.
Cooper converted to leave the Reds 14-9 ahead, before a second score from Chambers extended the lead even further after the break – Cooper again delivering the telling pass for his side and then adding the extras.
The Sharks tried to hit back via the boot of Pienaar, who missed a penalty straight after, but the home crowd were finally rewarded when Ndungane crossed the line with the visitors outnumbered in defence.
Pienaar converted and then did the same before the hour mark when the hosts grabbed their second try, thanks to a push-over effort from Botes, which put them back in the lead.
The Reds finally succumbed to conceding a third try thanks to more heavy pressure and a quick pick-up by JP Pietersen, who scored under the post.
Pienaar extended the lead, but the Queensland side refused to give in with Holmes setting up a tense finish when he crossed and Cooper converted to cut the gap to two with 10 minutes to play.
But that was it for the visitors as dogged defending at the end helped Plumtree's team seal a first home win of the season.
Tries: Ndungane, Botes, Pietersen
Cons: Pienaar 3
Pens: Pienaar 3
Tries: Cooper, Chambers 2, Holmes
Cons: Cooper 4
Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 4 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (c).
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andries Strauss, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.
Reds: 15 Peter Hynes, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Jack Kennedy, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Rod Davies.
Referee:Chris Pollock (New Zealand)