Lions and Sharks share the spoils
The Sharks rose from the dead to fight back from 30-9 down and earn a
30-all draw against a brave MTN Lions side at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
After looking out of it in the first half, and going 21 points down
just after the break, the move to the bench made a telling difference
as the visitors stormed back into the game, helped by a yellow card to
one of their former players Butch James and a genuine Lions inability
to close the game out.
Lions coach John Mitchell will be furious after seeing his side do all
the playing in the first half, look like champions and then simply
surrender a telling lead in the second to finish their season on a
And while he was a revelation on the day in defence and with his
kicking boots, Lions flyhalf James will have to shoulder much of the
blame for the moment of madness which cost his team 10 minutes with 14
men and handed the shift in momentum to the Sharks.
But in an enthralling game you have to praise the Sharks' fighting
spirit, especially finding the heart and soul to come back against the
odds when everything was going against them.
The introduction of Bismarck du Plessis and Freddy Michalak allowed a
more tenacious and attacking shape as they suddenly looked dangerous,
and came right back at the Lions.
With the Sharks tasting first blood on the scoreboard through a Pat Lambie
penalty, the Lions surged ahead through two penalties from James and
then a power rolling maul which ripped through the Sharks defence with
way too much ease.
Cobus Grobbelaar claimed the touchdown, and James converted, and
despite two late penalties in the first half the Lions were holding a
comfortable 13-9 lead and looked streets ahead of their opponents.
The Lions scored at a telling time, just before halftime, as prop Pat
Cilliers gave a perfect pass to fullback Jaco Taute to surge up the
middle. Taute almost held the ball too long before sending a bullet
out to halfback Jano Vermaak to go in at the corner.
Just after the break any thought of the Lions stopping their momentum
was halted when they found another power rolling maul to give
Grobbelaar his second try of the evening and a telling 30-9 lead.
But while they were dominating the collisions and making the Sharks'
attack look ordinary, the arrival of Du Plessis and Michalak brough an
immediate impetus to the side as Lambie was able to shift to fullback
with much more effect.
The young utility back managed to force his way over the line to bring
them back into the contest and then the moment of madness from James --
a high tackle on Keegan Daniel which deserved a yellow card -- gave the
visitors the momentum they needed.
Working the ball upfield, it was JP Pietersen who used the extra man
advantage they had to run around and score and place the pressure on
the Lions again.
Then a telling grubber from Lambie, where replacement winger Michael
Killian slipped in turning around, allowed the Sharks speedster Lwazi
Mvovo to sprint in behind the defence and get the scores level.
With only a few minutes left on the clock, the Sharks charged down an
attempted Butch James drop goal to stop him stealing the win, but time
ran out for both sides as they desperately searched for the victory.
Lions 30 -Tries: Cobus Grobelaar (2), Jarno Vermaak; Conversion: Butch James (3) Penalties: Butch James (3)
Sharks 30- Tries: Patrick Lambie, JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo; Conversions: Patrick Lambie (3); Penalties: Patrick Lambie (3)