The Sharks rediscovered their emphatic form of the early rounds of the Absa Currie Cup when they blew the Leopards off the park on Saturday in an exhilarating display of attacking rugby. The final score was 58 - 24. The game was played in blistering heat and when the match reached the three-quarter stage, the Sharks ran out of steam.
They could be forgiven for this because they had rattled up a mighty lead, and the Leopards took advantage to score four late tries to give respectability to the score. In truth, the final score flattered them.
The Sharks went into the match knowing they had to earn five “top eight” points to stay in contention for the semifinals and they attacked with appropriate intensity, showing scant regard for the scorching heat.
The Sharks dominated the opening exchanges and in the fifth minute lock Albert van den Berg was put away down the touchline by number eight Jacques Botes, who had broken from a ruck on the halfway line.
Ruan Pienaar converted. But the Sharks then conceded two soft tries. In the sixth minute, Sharks centre Adrian Jacobs was caught in possession out wide, the ball was turned over and opposite number Deon van Rensburg was freed up for a run to the corner.
From the kick-off, flyhalf Naas Olivier kicked towards the grand stand corner flag where Jacques Botes stood guard over the ball as it rolled towards the goal-line. But he was unaware that Leopards wing Jaco Hanekom had sprinted up out of sight and he dived onto the ball just ahead of Botes. Pienaar kicked a penalty in the 12th
minute but the Leopards had their tails up and their third try, in the 20th minute, was a gem.
In the Sharks’ 22, Olivier chipped over the defence, gathered and scored. His conversion gave the Leopards a surprising 19-10 lead.
But from then on, it was the Sharks that called the shots—until those final exhausting minutes. Pienaar, who was adjudged man of the match, kicked a penalty to start the comeback and then scored a beaut when he stole around the blind side of a ruck in the Leopards 22 to score.
Just before half-time there was a delightful try when the two wings, Henno Mentz and Brent Russell, combined in a display of pace and verve, with Russell getting the touch down. Pienaar converted to give the Sharks a 25-19 half-time lead. A minute into the second half, Pienaar again initiated a score. The Leopards thought he was
going to line-up for a penalty goal in their 22, but instead he took a quick tap to set up a try for Jacobs. Not long after, Jacobs’ centre partner, Grant Rees, was put into space on the halfway line and near the touchline and he had the power and pace to make it to the corner. Just a minute later, Jacobs made a great break and substitute wing Cedric Mkhize finished off.
The Sharks had exploded into a 44-19 lead before Van Rensburg got his second try but the Sharks replied with two powerful surges over the line by the forwards, with substitute hooker John Smit getting one try and number eight Botes the other.
The Sharks had given everything and at 58-24 with 15 minutes to go, their tired legs could not prevent the Leopards from getting their consolation tries. - Sapa