Sharks upended by Chiefs’ fightback
The Sharks missed a golden opportunity to claim an unbeaten Australasian tour when they went down 29-23 to the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
In an exciting and entertaining game where both sides battled to hold onto the lead for extended periods‚ the Sharks looked primed for a good win with a 23-17 advantage by the 66th minute.
However‚ two brilliant tries in two minutes from Anton Leinert-Brown and Brad Weber in the 67th and 69th minutes condemned Robert du Preez’s side to a sixth Super Rugby defeat of the season.
After a poor start to the season‚ the Chiefs collected their fourth win of the season and while they looked disjointed at times‚ once they found their attacking groove from broken play‚ they were irresistible.
The game was an opportunity for the Sharks to pull away from the Bulls with a bye awaiting the Durban side next week when they return to South Africa.
They didn’t make the most of it‚ especially in light of the Bulls’ heavy home defeat against the Crusaders.
The Bulls also have a four-match Australasian tour that’ll make or break their playoff aspirations.
After 12 games‚ the Sharks only have 29 points while the Bulls have 28 from 11.
The Jaguares also missed a chance of going to the top of the South African conference after their 32-27 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
A win would have given them breathing space but such is the Sharks’ knack of being inconsistent‚ the loss wasn’t surprising.
The Sharks‚ though‚ did well to fight back from a 10-0 deficit after Weber’s first try in the 25th minute alongside a Marty McKenzie conversion and 10th-minute penalty gave them the deserved lead.
Hyron Andrews' 30th-minute converted try and a 32nd-minute Curwin Bosch penalty saw the Sharks draw level but Mitch Karpik’s 34th-minute try and Bosch’s 38th-minute penalty saw the Chiefs take a 17-13 half-time lead.
The Sharks found some coherence in the second half and on the back of Nathan Harris’s 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a deliberate foul‚ scored a converted try through Ruan Botha in the 56th minute.
Another Bosch penalty in the 61st minute gave the Sharks the six-point lead.
Bosch again had a superb outing with 13 points and an astute tactical display that prevented the Chiefs from playing deep in the Sharks’ half.
However‚ Robert du Preez Junior’s entry in the second half saw Bosch move to fullback and the Sharks again lost their attacking shape that allowed the Chiefs to fight back.
The Sharks’ back three also put in a superb display‚ with Makazole Mapimpi being the best of the lot with unexpected turnovers mixed with defensive solidity.
The Sharks forwards also put in a decent shift but the Chiefs were desperate not to lose to a South African outfit and the two tries from Leinert-Brown and Weber ended the game as a contest‚ even though the Sharks tried to muscle their way up the field for the match-winning try.