Sharks hold on for 22-16 victory
May 2, 2014
Mitch Inman carries the ball for the Rebels
© Getty Images
The Melbourne Rebels were their own worst enemy as they handed the Super Rugby front-running Sharks a 22-16 win at AAMI Park. The Rebels dominated territory and possession but let themselves down with costly handling errors while penalties helped keep the visitors in the lead.
Melbourne's defence held firm until the 63rd minute when they again turned over the ball and the Sharks counter-attacked and raced downfield, with winger JP Pietersen touching down. That blew the lead out to 22-9 with their earlier points coming from South African sharp-shooter Frans Steyn, who booted five from five for a 15-6 halftime scoreline.
In their usual fashion, the Rebels, who have won six of their last seven games at home, refused to lay down. They hammered the Sharks tryline and after repeated penalties five-eighth Bryce Hegarty took a quick tap and fired a long ball out to reserve hooker Pat Leafa who burrowed over the line. Jason Woodward added the extras but the clock was against the Rebels, who ran out of time to find the necessary points.
They kept at it, even after full-time, and got to within 10 metres before a penalty for failing to release the ball. Woodward made a superb break midway through the first half, beating six Sharks defenders and as the Rebels sent the ball across field they forced a penalty and their first points of the game. The athletic fullback added a second penalty and although they came desperately close to scoring, with flanker Colby Fainga'a just centimetres away, couldn't get across the tryline until Leafa's effort.
Sharks become the first South African touring side to win in Australia in 2014
No South African team had managed to win in Australia or New Zealand this season but the competition leaders broke the mould which followed a shock loss to the Highlanders last round. The win will add a little more spice to their encounter next week with Australian conference leaders the Brumbies when coach Jake White returns to face his old team for the first time. White said he was happy with way his team responded from the early disappointment.
"When you fly around the world and you score and you don't get a call going your way it tends to put a bit of pressure on the players," he said. "Some sides would have panicked or lost their cool but they got into their huddle and spoke about it and managed to kill the game off. We didn't take our chances and made it difficult for ourselves but it's a win and we tick the box and move on."
When the teams met last year in Durban the Sharks ran in a record 10 tries in a 64-7 thumping which was the worst defeat in Rebels history. Rebels coach Tony McGahan was delighted with their defence but said the result left him "hugely frustrated".
"It was a game that we lost ourselves really," he said. "The boys showed tremendous courage and grit to stay in the game against the number one side but it was game that we let slip away from us."