Sharks scrum sets up win
The Cell C Sharks made it two out of two in their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign when they beat the Hurricanes 27-9 at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, but for much of the way it would have been a frustrating night for the coaches as the players made heavy weather of a dominant forward display.
Whereas last week against the Vodacom Bulls the Sharks were clinical and efficient, in this match they were discordant and too often untidy and were thus unable to take full advantage of an impressive scrumming performance that had the Hurricanes on the back foot in the first half.
Most of the Hurricanes’ firepower is at the back, so when they were strangled by the Sharks forwards in the early minutes the likes of flyhalf Beauden Barrett and Conrad Smith were given little chance to show their skills.
Instead the Hurricanes were scrambling backwards as their set-piece creaked, and it was a miracle that they never conceded more than a penalty to Patrick Lambie during their dominant opening quarter of an hour.
The Hurricanes tackled with great passion and commitment, and there were some big hits put on defence, but at the same time the Sharks helped the Kiwi side imitate the great escapologist Houdini with some poor option taking when a bit more calmness with ball in hand would have brought them points.
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They did go up 8-0 when Willem Alberts scored in the 19th minute. The Sharks, as they so frequently did, drove impressively to the line and for a moment look like they might take it over in the blanket for the score, but it was released to the right and one-off runner Alberts was there to thrust his immensely powerful body across the line for the try.
Lambie converted to make it 10-0, but almost unbelievably considering how effective the Sharks forwards had been in their quest at strangulation of the opposition, that was to prove the last Sharks score of the half.
Instead the Hurricanes, with the aid of some quite abysmal field kicking from the Sharks at times, eked their way back into the game with the scraps of possession they were presented with.
POOR FIELD KICKING
After 33 minutes Barrett was successful with his first kick at goal, and then three minutes later Marty Banks, the highly rated newcomer in the Hurricanes No 15 jersey, stepped up to show that he has got Frans Steyn’s length to his goalkicking when he slotted one from 55 metres.
That kick condemned the Kings Park faithful to an uncomfortable break between the halves, with the Hurricanes probably being the happier team as they had so little of the game and yet trailed just 10-6.
The Sharks forwards though deserve to be praised lavishly, no more than hooker and captain Bismarck du Plessis, who led impressively from the front and enjoyed a monster game in almost every respect.
There were others not far behind, and of course the entire pack was on the mark with the scrumming, which almost resembled the feared 1990 unit in the destruction wreaked early on.
One of the early scrums saw the Sharks march several metres from the halfway mark before setting in motion a build-up that got as far as the Hurricanes line before being held up.
The Sharks were better in the second half, though their field kicking remained poor, with Lambie as culpable as anyone in that regard. He did make up for it though by succeeding with five penalty kicks and conversion, missing just one conversion, for a personal tally of 17 points.
Lambie’s third penalty restored some of the balance in favour of the Sharks early in the second half, but Barrett drew another three points back when he slotted a kick from almost in front in the 51st minute.
The nerves would have continued to flutter on the terraces when a poor clearance was run back with interest by the Hurricanes, with the visitors wasting a good overlap that was developed through Hadleigh Parkes’s thrust up the middle.
The territorial ascendancy of the Sharks started to pay off though after that, and a break-out from Stefan Lewies in the 57th minute was rewarded when the Hurricanes were penalised and Lambie stepped up to make it 16-9.
Then came the moment that sealed the win when Lwazi Mvovo intercepted and ran 35 metres to score, thus ensuring that the Sharks would have bank another four log points to go with the five they took off the Bulls last week.
It probably says something of the massive expectation there is in Durban that an 18 point win over a Kiwi team was met with a response from the crowd that suggested there was a measure of disappointment.
CELL C SHARKS 27 – Tries: Willem Alberts, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversion: Patrick Lambie. Penalties: Lambie (3).
HURRICANES 9 – Penalties: Beauden Barrett (3).