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Lwazi Mvovo © Gallo images

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.

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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 mediocre stalemate.

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)


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