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Sharks take the points


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, EP Kings, Original Content, Sharks on 17 Aug 2015 at 09:56
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

The Sharks picked up a vital bonus-point Currie Cup win against the EP Kings in Durban on Saturday afternoon, in a game that was at times even closer than the 33-25 scoreline would suggest.

After the opening-round loss against the Pumas, winning this fixture was of the utmost importance for the Sharks and one could feel a palpable sense of relief when the final whistle blew – there was much about the performance that had fans shaking their heads, but also a number of good things, including the four tries scored on the day.

Most alarming, though, were the continued issues on defence, with Kings flyhalf George Whitehead taking full advantage to score the first of his side’s four tries in the twelfth minute. The Sharks struck back in impressive style, with the mercurial Lionel Cronje finding Andre Esterhuizen on the left with a pin-point aerial kick. The big winger plucked the ball out of the air and crashed over, handing the Sharks an 8-7 lead in the 16th minute. Cronje would play a role just a minute later, scoring his own try after a clever inside pass from Joe Pietersen put him through a gap. Pietersen’s conversion handed the Sharks a handy 15-5 lead, which he then extended further to 18-5 with a penalty.

If there’s one thing you can count on, though, it’s that the Sharks will always find a way to let the opposition back into a game if they get ahead early on and that was indeed the case here. Sharks number 8 Philip van der Walt was shown a yellow card for a tackle infringement in the red zone, after a period of sustained ball-in-hand pressure from the Kings, with opposite number Tim Agaba scoring off the back of a numerically-superior scrum to end the half. Scott van Breda missed his second conversion, leaving his side trailing 10-18 at the break.

Van der Walt’s exclusion was to prove more costly still in the second half, with the Kings turning on the pace (and the charm) to score two further tries in the opening period. With the Sharks looking increasingly confused defensively while a man down, first Steven Sykes and then Enrico Acker scored tries, with Geroge Whitehead converting the second of those to put his team ahead, 22-18. Crucially, the Kings had already picked up a bonus point and it appeared to be going properly downhill for the Sharks. A fact that was not lost on many watching, of course, was that Agaba – arguably the best player on the field in the opening hour – is a man who (like Warren Whiteley of the Lions) had to leave Durban after attending the Sharks Academy due to a lack of senior opportunities. Those comparing his performance to van der Walt’s may have asked the question as to why the Sharks didn’t rather invest in what they had.

One local youngster who refused to back down, though, was blindside flank Daniel du Preez and he scored a great try off the back of a driving maul to bring the Sharks back into the game, in the 55th minute. Van der Walt having been reintroduced, Cronje found a good touch with a penalty and Marco Wentzel and Franco Marais between them secured the clean lineout possession needed for du Preez to power over for his second try in an as many Currie Cup appearances. Pietersen missed the conversion and the resulting 1-point lead was soon eclipsed by Whitehead, who struck back with a penalty and put the Kings ahead again, 25-23 with the last quarter looming.

It was in this final period, though, that the Sharks finally stood up and showed just a little composure, clawing back that deficit to ultimately record the win. First Pietersen snuck the lead back via a penalty, before replacement Paul Jordaan scored a trademark solo try down the left flank to not only secure the victory, but also hand the Sharks a bonus point of their own. Even with Odwa Ndungane shown a very dubious yellow card for a dangerous tackle 7 minutes from time, the Sharks managed to play cleverly enough to see out the time with their 8-point lead intact.

Sharks: 33 (18)
Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Lionel Cronje, Daniel du Preez, Paul Jordaan
Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2)
Penalties: Joe Pietersen (3)

EP Kings: 25 (10)
Tries: George Whitehead, Tim Agaba, Steven Sykes, Enrico Acker
Conversions: George Whitehead (1)
Penalties: George Whitehead (1)



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