Planet Rugby

Brumbies smash sleepy Sharks

24th March 2007 16:54

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franscois steyn

Crunched!: Sharks full-back Francois Steyn gets sandwiched in a tackle

The Brumbies, showing innovation, verve and determination, caught the Sharks sleeping and recorded a shock 21-10 win over the previously unbeaten South African side in the Super 14 Round Eight encounter in Durban on Saturday.

Outscoring the Sharks by two tries to one they kept alive their hopes - while the Sharks will depart on their Australasian tour with their reputation badly dented and their pride bruised.

With six successive victories the Sharks were the only unbeaten team in the tournament at the start of the match, but they now reside in second place on the standings - having earlier been overtaken by the Blues.

If there was one aspect of this match that can be hoisted out as a highlight, it is the Australians' rock solid defence - literally tackling the powerful Sharks outfit into submission.

The Brumbies silenced the Shark Tank after putting 18 unanswered points past the home team in the first half thanks to some brilliant work with the ball in hand.

Utility back Julian Huxley who was wearing the number 12 jersey this time round, was superb on attack and defence all night. A try, penalty and two conversions certainly helped put his team in a strong position. And that was just in the first half!

Passes failing to go to hand, wrong option taking and foiled backline moves were just the tip of the crumbling iceberg that the Sharks would later bestow upon themselves as they took the field full of confidence to equal the Crusaders record of seven consecutive wins in a row.

The Brumbies did everything right - the Sharks didn't. The home team failed to find a way through the enormous wall of defence that could have been made out of rubber than brick as the attacking players bounced backwards off the tackle.

The Sharks just didn't have the momentum and weren't as close to their oppositions class as they have been in the last six outings as a team. Instead, they made life extremely difficult for themselves with their school-boy errors and the inability to keep the ball in hand when it counted.

Not a single soul in the Sharks team could breach the advantage line because they were just too flat-footed. There was no game plan in their approach, and if they had one - they never once reverted to plan B.

The Sharks battled to get into their stride and although they managed to threaten the Brumbies line a couple of times, more than once with their pack, the visitors' defence held strong.

The gorgeous cheerleaders had nothing to cheer about apart from a last minute consolation try to replacement Adrian Jacobs, but even then they could only manage one pompom in the air with the other hand covering their yawns.

Did the Sharks perhaps underestimate their Australian opponents going into this game?

Surely not.

Sharks coach Dick Muir should have known better than anyone not to take their foot off the gas against the two-time Super 12 winners.

Instead, the home team got themselves into a severe crash and forgot to wear their seatbelt.

Hats off to the Brumbies team that picked themselves up admirably from a their crushing defeat to the Cheetahs last weekend.

The ABSA Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for the visitors, but Brumbies skipper George Smith and his troops made the win look easy as they cruised to their first win in Durban.

The Brumbies got the ball rolling almost immediately through a break to Jone Tawake just seconds after the kick-off. The giant flanker would have been in under the sticks had it not been for a thumping tackle by Waylon Murray that dismantled the ball from Tawake's hands.

Huxley wasn't wasting any further time as minutes later the centre opted to go blind from a Brumbies scrum and sent Wallaby winger Mark Gerrard flying down the left-hand touchline. Gerrard put in a clever grubber kick as the two Brumbies gave chase. Huxley won the race and touched down for a fantastic try that was looked on by a deathly silence from the Sharks fans.

Huxley converted his own try and the Sharks looked shell shocked.

The home team were in a huddle once more under the posts after Huxley again was in the thick of things, this time nailing a penalty kick to give his team a handy 10-0 lead after the same amount of minutes on the clock.

The Sharks had the chance to get one back over their visitors - several chances in fact - but try as they may, they just could not breach the Brumbies defence after camping on their line for seven minutes.

Bradley Barritt made sure of this by knocking on after getting sandwiched by two Brumbies defenders. The tackle proved to be to much for the young centre and he limped off the field soon after.

Springbok full-back Francois Steyn must have wished it was him leaving the field after having a horrid day at the office for the Sharks. The new young star of South Africa rugby was guilty of far too many knock-ons in the tackle, dropped passes and wrong option taking.

The same couldn't be said of anyone in the Brumbies line-up as another wave of attack led to lock Adam Wallace-Harrison crashing over for the visitor's second and final try of the night.

With the Sharks defence stretched to the max, veteran scrum-half George Gregan flung the ball blind to a stationary Smith on the left-hand touchline. The former dread-locked flank, quickly threw the ball inside to a charging Wallace-Harrison who used his massive build to stretch out in the corner.

The TMO was called into action after it looked like Sharks number eight Jacques Botes may have dragged him into touch. From the first replay it was obvious that the try was scored.

Huxley had no trouble with the touchline conversion and the Brumbies held on to their 18-0 lead into the break.

There would have been harsh words spoken in the Sharks changing room after a dismal first half display and the replacements came on think and fast for the home team. They made a difference - but only a little.

The Sharks did get their first points on the board in the 45th minute thanks to a penalty kick by scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, but the eighteen point lead was soon restored thanks to another Huxley penalty soon after.

Desperation started to sink in for the home team and a few unnecessary high tackles were lucky not to have cost them a yellow card.

In the end it was a game of two halves, with the Sharks outscoring the Brumbies ten points to three in the second half, a half in which they totally dominated the possession stakes, spending endless minutes hammering away at the Brumbies defence.

Finally, Jacobs (on for the injured Barritt) managed a consolation try after running a hard angle through the sturdy defence to touch down next to the poles with one minute remaining on the stadium clock.

James made a drop-goal conversion in an attempt to get the game up and going again for an outside chance of collecting a bonus point.

But the damage had already been done and the final whistle was welcomed with despair to the home side and celebration to the visiting team.

Man of the match: Without a doubt, this has to go to Julian Huxley for his superb display with the ball by hand and by boot. Even when he didn't have the ball, Huxley tackled like a demon possessed and is just a few games away from booking himself a plane ticket to France come September. A few other worthy mentions would have to be Stephen Larkham who showed us he's still got it. Gregan can also give himself a pat on the back for a game well played, while George Smith ate up the Sharks defence like a plate full of sushi.

The scorers:

For the Sharks:

Try: Jacobs

Con: Pienaar

Pens: Pienaar

For the Brumbies:

Tries: Huxley, Wallace-Harrison

Con: Huxley

Pens: Huxley 3

Teams:

Sharks: 15 Francois Steyn, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jacques Botes, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Warren Britz, 5 Albert van den Berg, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Johann Muller, 19 Bob Skinstad, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs

Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Peter Playford, 12 Julian Huxley, 11 Mark Gerrard, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith (c), 6 Jone Tawake, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Nic Henderson.

Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Julian Salvi, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Francis Fainifo

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Christie du Preez (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa), Sandy MacNeil (Australia)

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