Shabby Sharks tamed

Fifteen successive phases in the first two minutes of the game and an intercept try in the second half was as good as it got for the Sharks in Sydney on Saturday.

The Waratahs were comfortable 31-16 Vodacom Super 14 winners, but just like the Brumbies on Friday the home side will be furious that they did not take the maximum five league points from the contest.

The Waratahs scored three tries to one, botched a couple more attacks on the Sharks goalline and ended the match with a scrum in front of the Sharks posts. They messed that up as well and had to be content with a victory after the stumble in Pretoria a week ago.

The Sharks started wonderfully, putting together 15 phases and showing control, patience and effectiveness in taking the ball 40 metres. They forced the penalty, Percy Montgomery kicked the three points and for the next few minutes the trend continued. In fact, after 11 minutes the Waratahs had scraped together just 19 percent of the ball possession.

Then it all changed, as it tends to do with SA teams on the road. The Tahs started getting some ball and three points became six, which became 13, then 16 and then 19 at the break.

The Tahs were comfortably ahead at halftime and the Sharks were not helped through Montgomery’s erratic goalkicking, which included a miss from right in front.

Ruan Pienaar took over the goalkicking duties, banged over two kicks but, if anything, it added to the delusion that the Sharks were actually in the game. The Tahs, their forwards more aggressive and effective than in Pretoria, were able to provide go-forward ball for their dangerous backs and the home team looked menacing on attack. Morgan Turinui, in particular, kept the Sharks defence busy, while Peter Hewat’s counter-attacking from fullback was a constant irritation to the visitors.

It was Hewat’s counter attack on 57 minutes that sealed the outcome. He chipped, chased, caught and offloaded to spark Loti Tuqiri’s first Super try in 11 matches. At 26-9 the game was over, although a Montgomery intercept and 80 metre sprint forced the Waratahs into an extra gear as they went looking for two more tries and the bonus point.

They got the first one easily enough, turning down two kickable penalties, but failed to get the fourth, more through their own sloppiness than anything outstanding in the Sharks defence.

The Sharks, adventurous in attack, lacked all-round composure and never had the intensity to trouble a home team, whose players had only arrived back in Sydney on Monday after three weeks on the road.

Tries: Shaun Berne (17th minute), Loti Tuqiri (58th minute), Stephen Hoiles (71st minute)
Conversions: Hewat (18th minute, 59th minute)
Penalties: Hewat (11th minute, 14th minute, 21st minute, 30th minutes)

Tries: Montgomery (61st minute)
Conversions: Pienaar (62nd minute)
Penalties: Montgomery (3rd minute), Pienaar (44th minute)

Key moments
3rd min: Sharks take it through 16 phases in impressive start and win the penalty. Monty obliges.
6th min: Hewat misses penalty.
8th min: Monty misses penalty.
11th min: Bit of Loti Tuqiri magic forces penalty. Hewat goals.
17th min: Turinui break sets up Shaun Berne try.
25th min: Monty misses a sitter from in front.
40th min: Hewat misses a 54 metre penalty attempt
44th min: Great kick from Pienaar. Sharks double their score.
46th min: Pienaar’s on the board again.
57th min: Fantastic Hewat counter attack leads to Tuqiri’s first Super try in 11 games.
61st min: Monty puts Sharks back in the game with an intercept from a Mat Rogers pass. Runs 80 metres to score.
70th min: Consistent pressure pays off as Tahs score from structured first phase off a lineout.