Brumbies take bragging rights in drab match-up
Canberra side defeat table-topping Sharks 16-9, but it’s a poor advertisement for Super 15
South Africa’s Sharks clung to first place on the Super Rugby table on Saturday by taking a consolation bonus point from a 16-9 loss to the second-placed ACT Brumbies in a rain-soaked top-of-the-table clash in Canberra.
Brumbies lock Sam Carter scored the only try of the match in the 63rd minute while Christian Lealiifano had four penalties from seven attempts, outpointing Frans Steyn who landed three goals from six attempts for the Durban-based Sharks.
Despite the conditions, the match was a poor advertisement for Super Rugby by the tournament’s top-two teams after 13 of 19 regular season rounds.
The clash was given added intrigue by the fact that Sharks head coach Jake White was the Brumbies’ head coach until last season when he guided them into the tournament final.
But even that compelling back story couldn’t add any drama with the Sharks and Brumbies both so lacking in tactical refinement that the game dragged and will likely be remembered as one of the season’s most drab and tedious.
The Sharks have scored only 18 tries in 11 matches this season, only one away from home and none in the first half of their last six games. The Brumbies had averaged 26 points per game until this match, but they are a team whose play is based on dogged defence.
The Sharks were scorched 34-18 in their last match against a New Zealand team and the Brumbies lost 40-20 in last week’s match against the Crusaders, suggesting both may be superior only within their conferences.
However, Brumbies captain Ben Mowen was satisfied. “It’s a hugely rewarding result,” he said. “Any time you get a win against the Sharks is good, especially … when they’ve been leading the competition.
“The boys had to dig deep. They were tough conditions but I thought we managed it well.”
Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said: “It’s not what we wanted and I think we missed a few kicks. In the last few minutes, we had a few opportunities to score, but we just couldn’t.”
In Dunedin, the Highlanders raced to a 23-0 half-time lead, but had to hold out a rampant Lions in the second half to claim a contentious 23-22 win. The Lions scored four second-half tries, but fly half Elton Jantjies missed a sideline conversion after the full-time siren to deny them a miraculous comeback win.
Jantjies’ attempt drifted just wide of the posts as referee Angus Gardner blew the final whistle. But Jantjies was entitled to a second attempt as the Highlanders had charged early and the match ended in controversy
In Bloemfontein, the Western Force beat the Cheetahs 23-16 after leading 16-6 at half-time.
On Friday, the Chiefs beat the Blues 32-20 while the Hurricanes accounted for the Melbourne Rebels 25-15.