Sharks coach John Plumtree was relieved on Saturday after his side overcame a lack of confidence and a determined Lions outfit to claim their first victory of the Super Rugby season.
Riaan Viljoen, Lwazi Mvovo, Meyer Bosman and Jacques Botes all scored tries to help clinch a 32-20 bonus-point win in Durban.
‘I was pleased that we ground it out,” Plumtree said.
“We gave ourselves a few hairy moments by allowing them to score after we had. That clinical bit that we need from 25-30 metres out is still not there. We need to sort that out.”
The coastal side had lost their opening two matches of the campaign, going down to the Bulls and Stormers, both away from home.
“We need to get some confidence after a pretty tough couple of weeks,” Plumtree said.
“I think at times it showed. We looked a little bit nervous. This will help us come to work on Monday with genuine smiles on our faces.”
Plumtree applauded the Lions for showing fighting spirit as the visitors saw a bonus point slip from their grasp.
“I have to give the Lions a lot of credit. I thought at times they tackled outstandingly,” he said.
“Every time we ran the ball, there’d be two or three of them in front of us. They had good cover out wide. I was impressed with their tenacity. They just didn’t give up.”
The Sharks boss insisted there was little difference in the way they had played in week three compared to the previous two rounds.
“I don’t think we really played any better than we have done in the last couple of weeks, but the difference was that we got the win. I think it’s just a continuation of trying to improve on what we’re doing.”
Lions coach John Mitchell felt his side had made errors at key times, which had proved costly.
They were twice within seven points of the hosts in the final quarter, before eventually going down in their second loss of the season.
“We suffered because I think the Sharks dominated field position enough to force three or four errors in our own half,” said the Lions boss.
Mitchell hit out at the officiating from referee Mark Lawrence’s assistants.
“There were some dubious officials tonight, so we’re going to have to report the TMO on the evidence that we have,” he said.
“That’s something we’ll have to deal with upstairs. They won’t change the result, but clearly [the officials] need to be accountable at this level.”
Bulls off on the wrong foot
Bulls skipper Pierre Spies admitted his side were left playing catch-up to the Blues after the tourists got off to a quick start in in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Blues struck a massive blow two minutes into the match and led 10-0 after only eight minutes of play, charging ahead to win 29-23.
‘Every week could dish up something different and tonight it was just a perfect example,” said Spies.
“We fell behind early in the game and we couldn’t convert our pressure into points so we were chasing the game the whole time.”
The Bulls struggled to launch an attack, bungling a few scoring opportunities, coupled with an unusually ordinary kicking performance by flyhalf Morne Steyn.
“I think the times we got into their half, we just couldn’t convert it into points, so it was not good execution from our side, and it was missed opportunities and a lot of mistakes,” said Spies.
“You can’t afford that in this competition, so it wasn’t a good evening for us.”
Spies gave most of the credit to the Blues and felt they were the better team on the night.
“If you play against a motivated team like the Blues it makes it difficult for you. You struggle to get back,” he said.
“Credit to them. They did well tonight, they put a lot of pressure on us in a lot of places and they deserved the win.”
With 12 minutes left in the match the Bulls had their backs firmly against the wall, trailing by 15 points.
The hosts, however, showed some gumption as they ran in two consecutive tries in the space of seven minutes.
“We fought back well in the end,” Spies said.
“We came back with those two tries which was vital for us. We got the bonus point. In some sense it’s good that we had an experience like this for the first time as a team, to be in that situation. We fought back well but we ran out of time.”
While his side could not pull through in the end, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke believed the experience would hold his players in good stead.
“I think the bonus point was vital in the end, and the manner in which the guys kept fighting — it was the first time that the team has been in such a situation,” said Ludeke.
There were a lot of positives he could take from the match, but Ludeke felt his troops conceded too many turnovers.
“In the second half [the Blues] were smart, they kicked it long and behind us,” he said.
“They had the lead on the score and we almost had to push our chances there. So credit to them there as well. The loss is unfortunate. We would like to win at home, it is vital looking ahead in the competition, but we can always make up for it.”
Blues mentor Patrick Lam said his team had braced themselves for a physical battle and he felt the execution of their game plan had wrapped up the victory.
“We know what it is like here and it was important that we defended well and pretty much tried to contain the kicking game,” said Lam.
“It was a real dogfight. It could have gone either way and there was a lot of pressure on the line.” – Sapa