Planet Rugby

Sharks feast on lean Lions

28th April 2007 15:51

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Sharks feast on lean Lions

Beastly charge: The Sharks' Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira on the charge

The Sharks moved into second place on the Super 14 standings and took a huge leap towards home ground advantage in the play-offs when they smashed a very poor Lions team 33-3 in Durban on Saturday.

The chasm in class, skills levels and enthusiasm was as wide as the four to none try count suggests.

Except for the scrums, where the Lions earned two penalties as the Sharks' scrum buckled under pressure, the home team was better, quicker and stronger in everything they did.

In fact the Sharks looked like a team near the top of the table playing for glory.

The Lions looked like a team hovering near the bottom of the standings and in no mood for rugby. They were slow, ponderous and very negative - lacking of ideas, creativity and enthusiasm. There were bursts of enthusiasm from certain individuals in the Lions team, at times, but generally they looked like they would rather be sitting in a dry lounge watching the game on TV.

The Sharks, in some of the most atrocious conditions seen this season, looked full of running.

And talking of conditions. The game saw plenty of rain and even a rush of hail in the second half.

However, the Sharks showed their true character by sticking to their structures as best they could and ensuring they collect the full five points and move up to just one point behind the table-topping Crusaders.

Flawless it was not. Pretty it was not. But effective it certainly was.

The Lions suffered a late setback, when captain and fly-half André Pretorius fell ill and was ruled out. It resulted in a backline reshuffle - Jaco van Schalkwyk moving from wing to fly-half and Wylie Human coming in on the wing.

The Sharks opened the early scoring, a second-minute Percy Montgomery penalty - after the Lions were penalised for hands in at a ruck.

There was an opportunity soon afterwards for the Lions to hit back, after JP Pietersen was guilty of an atrocious high tackle - something that he has done far too often in recent weeks. However, Earl Rose's attempt drifted wide ... very wide.

The Lions were again penalised for hands in the ruck and young Francois Steyn slotted the penalty from inside his own half to make it 6-0 after nine minutes.

The Lions didn't learn their lesson and despite referee Jonathan Kaplan speaking to captain Ernst Joubert they did it again and this time Montgomery slotted the kick from 30 metres out to make it 9-0 after 14 minutes.

And still they didn't learn. Just on the 20-moinute mark wing Wylie Human was yellow carded for not releasing the player in the tackle, after the referee had warned the next offence would result in a card.

The Lions managed to keep the Sharks at bay for about 10 minutes, before the pressure told.

Earl Rose, who was haphazard all game, threw a shocking pass at Jano Vermaak. The Sharks turned the ball over, took it through a number of phases, before Ryan Kankowski put JP Pietersen over for a try in the corner. Montgomery's conversion attempt was wide, but at 14-0 it started to look ominous.

It looked even more troublesome for the out-of-sorts Lions team when, after turning over the ball again, the Sharks hit back quickly on the counter and a huge cut-out pass to captain John Smit saw him race into the Lions' 22, before he off-loaded to Pietersen, who went over for his second try. Again the conversion drifted wide.

Rose finally managed to put his team on the board with a 39th-minute penalty, but at 19-3 and the half-time siren sounding it appeared the game was over as a contest already.

The Lions' woes continued after the break. Earl TRose had another easy kicked and hooked it badly.

Then the weather worsened, dramatically - with hail starting to come down by the bucketloads. The white, frozen water particles were bounced off the players and the ball bounced all over the place as the players struggled with control.

And matters got worse for the Lions as well.

First Jacques Cronjé was yellow carded, again for repeated infringements at the ruck, and then the Sharks scored their third try.

It came from a line-out near the line, which turned into a maul - in which the Sharks have been very good this season - and Jacques Botes found acres of space as the Lions' defences splintered. Botes strolled over for an easy try, which Montgomery converted to make it 26-3.

The bonus-point try for the Sharks came with about 15 minutes to go, as a Lions scrum - still a man down and the only reason why it was under pressure - disintegrated near their own line and Botes again strolled over for an easy try. Montgomery's conversion made it 33-3.

The Lions threw a few individual rushes at the Sharks in the final 10 minutes, but the Sharks easily repelled them for a well-deserved win.

Man of the match: In these conditions it is difficult to single out individuals, but Jacques Botes' work on the ground and his two tries ensures he earns our award.

The scorers:

For the Sharks:

Tries: Pietersen 2, Botes 2

Cons: Montgomery 2

Pens: Montgomery 2, Steyn

For the Lions:

Pen: Rose

Yellow cards: Wylie Human (Lions, 19 - repeated infringements, not releasing in the tackle), Jacques Cronjé (Lions, 57 - repeated infringements, hands in the ruck)

Sharks: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Francois Steyn, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 Deon Carstens, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 BJ Botha, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Bob Skinstad, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs

Lions: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jaco Pretorius, 11 Wylie Human, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Jacques Cronjé, 7 Ernst Joubert (c), 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Geo Cronjé, 4 Cobus Grobler, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.

Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Bertus Smit, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Doppies la Grange, 21 André Pretorius, 22 Colin Lloyd.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Touch judges: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Gareth Lloyd-Jones (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

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