Sharks escape with gritty win against the Lions

General views during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions at Jonsson Kings Park on October 09, 2020 in Durban.
General views during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions at Jonsson Kings Park on October 09, 2020 in Durban.

The Sharks had to dig deep to escape with a 19-16 win against the Lions in the Super Rugby Unlocked opener at King’s Park on Friday night.

The Sharks led 13-0 in the first half, but progressively allowed the Lions back into the game to a point where the visitors had an opportunity to win the game. However, they won a late scrum penalty to escape with the win.

The teams show far less ring-rust as compared to SuperFan Saturday, but with more playing time, they have the propensity to get better.

Playing far more positively than they did when they were well beaten by the Bulls on SuperFan Saturday two weeks ago, the Sharks showed better early intent and incision. They were rewarded for their endeavour in the fifth minute when a set of excellent offloads from Phendulani Buthelezi and Lukhanyo Am put Werner Kok away for the game’s first try.

Predictably, the game quickly degenerated into an arm-wrestle, but Sibahle Maxwane was bundled into touch in the 19th minute as the Lions sought a way to get back into the game.

Two Curwin Bosch penalties in the 24th and the 31st minutes gave the Sharks a 13-0 lead, but Elton Jantjies narrowed the deficit to 10 points with a 33rd minute penalty.

The Lions played with the better urgency in the second half and while Bosch and Jantjies missed penalties, it was the Lions who scored the second stanza when Jantjies’s kick-pass was plucked out of the air by Jamba Ulengo in the 52nd minute.

It was good on Ulengo, especially after the right winger had knocked on in the 47th minute after outside centre Burger Odendaal had put him into space. Bosch and Jantjies then traded penalties as the Sharks went to the last 20 minutes with a 16-13 lead.

The sides tried to punch holes in each other’s defence, but with 10 minutes remaining, Jantjies levelled the scores with a penalty. The Lions though infringed at the ruck and allowed the Sharks to regain the lead with a 73rd minute penalty.

A huge 75th minute scrum from the Lions gave them a significant advantage, one they could have made into something more. Jantjies’s penalty not only came off the up-right, but Odendaal was caught in possession and the Sharks won a crucial penalty to get some respite.

The unusually jittery Sharks were unable to compose themselves defensively and conceded a late penalty on their 5m line after stopping a lineout drive from the Lions. The Lions went for a scrum, but conceded the penalty and by that stretch, the game when a draw would have been a fair result.

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