For the second straight week it was a case of 'close but no cigar' for the Sharks as they tumbled to a 24-22 defeat to the Brumbies.
For the second straight week it was a case of 'close but no cigar' for the Sharks as they tumbled to a 24-22 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
Brumbies prop Ben Alexander touched down twice as the team from the Aussie capital made it three wins in a row.
On paper, they're one of the best teams in the Super 14, but things just won't go right for the Sharks this year. It was never going to be easy on the road against Australia's 'dream team' and once too many unnecessary penalties and handling errors cost the Sharks.
A closer game you could ask for as the protagonists exchanged the lead every few minutes, but neither side will be overly happy with their performance as both backlines failed to fire.
In the end, it was the Brumbies pack that made the difference with two hard earned tries.
Andy Goode gave the Sharks the early lead thanks to two penalties, including one from 50m, but Matt Giteau slotted two easy shots at goal to level the scores after 25 minutes.
After the Sharks dominated possession in the opening quarter they could hardly get their hands on the ball in the next 20 minutes as the Brumbies pack got into their stride.
Alexander was first to get over the whitewash at the end of 26 phases to put the Brumbies ahead as the home side looked to take control of the match.
Some slack defending around the fringes of the rucks would cost the Brumbies however as Ruan Pienaar found a gap and made sniping run to touch down a few minutes later. Goode's conversion from the touchline leveled the scores once again.
The English fly-half would have the last laugh of the half, nailing another mammoth penalty attempt to put the visitors 16-13 up at the break.
The Brumbies pack earned another try to start the second half. The Sharks Springbok front row was made to look ordinary once again as the Brumbies plied the pressure from a 5m scrum. In the aftermath Alexander burrowed his way across for his second try.
Giteau's conversion sailed wide – this first miss from the kicking tee this season – but Goode had no such problems five minutes later with another penalty making to five-from-five and move the Sharks ahead by a single point.
The seesaw battle continued as Giteau and Goode exchanged three-pointers to leave the scores at 22-21 to the Sharks entering the last quarter.
With ten minutes to go, Ryan Kankowski was adjudged to have started his run for an attempted intercept too early. It was a marginal call, but it gave Giteau a chance to move the Brumbies back into the lead, which he duly did.
The Sharks never really threatened to steal the win as a couple a basic handling errors stifled each of their attacks at the death.
Man of the match: Two tries, a strong show in the scrums and in the tight stuff, Ben Alexander is the logical choice this week.
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Alexander 2
Pens: Giteau 4
For the Sharks:
Pens: Goode 5
Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Stirling Mortlock, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Salesi Maafu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Guy Shepherdson, 18 Justin Harrison, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Toomua, 22 Tyrone Smith.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Waylon Murray.
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Marks (Australia), Simon Moore (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)