Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 20 News List

SUPER 14: Sharks maintain their unbeaten record

AFP , HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND

Sitiveni Sivivatu of the Chiefs is tackled by John Smit of the Sharks during their Super 14 match at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

The Coastal Sharks maintained their unbeaten record and showed why they are the best defensive team in the Super 14 when they beat the Waikato Chiefs 22-15 yesterday.

The match, played mainly in heavy rain, went nearly four minutes into extra-time as the Chiefs mounted wave after wave of attack on the Sharks line, looking for the equalizer, but they could not find a way through.

In a match that was an intense struggle all the way, the Sharks’ success lay in the pinpoint accuracy of their chip kicks to left winger J.P. Pietersen.

It was a well-rehearsed move that produced two tries from precisely weighted kicks by Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar.

Steyn was a class act for the Sharks, scoring the only try in the first half to give the South Africans a 7-3 lead at the turn and then setting up Pietersen’s first try midway through the second half.

When Pienaar repeated the move 10 minutes later, with a chip-kick across field that bounced perfectly for Pietersen to run on to, the game appeared over with the Sharks leading 22-8.

However, the Chiefs fought back, narrowing the gap to seven points with a try to Brendon Leonard when the half-back knocked Sharks full-back Stefan Terblanche backwards in his charge for the line.

But Terblanche turned from villain to hero minutes later with a copybook tackle that cut down Stephen Donald just short of the line.

The Chiefs twice held the lead in the match, from Donald’s opening penalty and again when hooker Aled de Malmanche forced his way over early in the second spell, but luck was against them when they needed it most.

■FORCE 25, BRUMBIES 16

AFP, CANBERRA

The Western Force upset the ACT Brumbies and ended a team hoodoo with a 25-16 win in their Super 14 clash yesterday.

With winger Cameron Shepherd scoring three tries, the Force looked a much more cohesive unit than the one that just edged past the Cheetahs at home last weekend, running in the first three tries of the match on the way to a long overdue first away win in Australia.

It was an extremely timely win for the Force, who claimed a bonus point and went to 2-1 ahead of successive away games against the Chiefs and the Crusaders.

For the Brumbies, it was their first loss of the year after opening the season with successive wins and they never looked sharp.

They could at least console themselves with the fact that one of the most influential players for the Force was Wallabies fly-half Matt Giteau, who spearheaded a dangerous Force back-line, but earlier this week announced he was returning to the Brumbies next year.

Giteau didn’t do any favors for his next employer and was a key contributor to the Force’s first two tries. While his opposite number, Christian Lealiifano, was having an ordinary night, particularly with the boot, Giteau showed what the Brumbies have to look forward to next season.

Giteau’s incisive long pass in the 27th minute to Ryan Cross set up an easy first phase try to Shepherd, who had to pass a fitness test on his ankle to play.

However, it was the Brumbies that led 9-8 at halftime, thanks to three penalties to Mark Gerrard, despite the Force enjoying 62 percent of the possession.

After the break, the Force started to convert their dominance into points. Shepherd made it a brace when he again combined with Giteau, after quick hands from lock Nathan Sharpe, in the 44th minute as the Force grabbed the lead.

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