Planet Rugby

Sharks hold firm in Auckland

23rd May 2014 10:24

Share:

bismarck du plessis sharks blues

First over: Bismarck du Plessis

Despite two yellow cards, the Sharks shut down the Blues with a 29-23 win at North Harbour Stadium on Friday to stay top of the log.

Shutting down opposition teams might not win the Sharks many neutral supporters, but they keep winning with an effective, soul-destroying style.

This was their tenth victory in 13 matches, moving them 16 points clear of the Bulls in the South African Conference before their match later on Friday against the Brumbies.

Even without the banned Jean Deysel, the Sharks weren't troubled as they squeezed out their hosts at the breakdown. Yellow cards for Jannie du Plessis and Frans Steyn were both correctly awarded but even they couldn't alter the destiny of this result despite a nervous finish.

The flair from the Blues and power of the Sharks always felt like a mismatch on paper and so it proved to be early on, as Steyn persistently punished the home side for any indiscretions.

That trend began in the third minute with a 40-metre penalty as the Blues infringed at the ruck, Hickey drawing the hosts level shortly after.

No player exemplifies the directness of the Sharks better than Bismarck du Plessis, who crashed his way over from close-range for the game's first try after a good carry from S'bura Sithole.

A missed attempt from Hickey was made up for a few minutes later as he landed his third strike, the Blues staying tight in the game at 6-10, but despite dominating possession they couldn't capitalise on promising field position deep in the Sharks' 22 with the defence from the league leaders holding firm.

Keegan Daniel's clever grubber kick created a chance for JP Pietersen, but the bouncing ball was too elusive for the Springbok winger to gather in slippery conditions from the light rain.

Steyn turned the screw with a drop goal and another penalty before the half was out to give the Sharks a healthy 16-6 lead by the break.

'Patience' was the mantra uttered by the Blues coaching staff at half-time and it paid off instantly with a penalty as Jannie du Plessis was sent to the bin.

Kicking for goal would have seemed the obvious option but the numerical advantage in the pack was too appealing for skipper Luke Braid to turn down. The captain had gambled and after consultation with the TMO for a possible obstruction, scored by ducking under a rare gap in the defence.

The expectation was that momentum would flow the way of the Blues considering they were a man up, but the Sharks pounced by kicking through behind Frank Halai to start a passage of play where they pinned the Blues deep in their 22, coming away eventually with a third penalty from Steyn.

A throw of the dice from the Blues saw Ihaia West replace Hickey in a bid to open the game up, but it worked against them.

The Sharks had bossed the breakdown throughout and when applying pressure the ball spilled loose and was hacked forward by Bismarck du Plessis, Cobus Reinach beating Lolagi Visinia to the ball and diving for the Sharks second try. 26-16 to the visitors heading into the final quarter.

Good close-range work from the Blues forwards created an advantage, but they needed a second try. Steyn's cynical play at the ruck saw the Sharks issued another yellow card.

Steyn's illegality aside, the Sharks gritty defence was magnificent in bursting up off their line to turn over possession and clear was perfectly executed.

A controversial pass from Ma'a Nonu handed a try to Tevita Li in the corner to bring the Blues surprisingly back in contention after West's conversion. Nonu's hands were adjudged to be going backwards.

Within six points the Blues had to stay composed, but they blew that instantly when Sam Prattley idiotically took out a man off the ball. SP Marais slotted the penalty as Steyn returned from the bin.

West's second penalty brought the Blues back within seven points with eight minutes left, the beginning of a spirited resurgence from the home side that felt all too late in the contest with time ticking away.

A combination of resilient defence and penalties though stopped the Blues short. Another feather in the cap for the Sharks as they won in New Zealand for a second week in a row, but they were pushed here at the end.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Braid, Li
Cons: Hickey, West
Pens Hickey 2, West

For Sharks:
Tries: B du Plessis, Reinach
Cons: Steyn 2
Pens: Steyn 3, Marais
Drop Goal: Steyn
Yellow Cards: J du Plessis, Steyn

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacement: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Albert Nikoro.

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Heimar Williams

Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff BluesLeinster vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411