The Sharks survived a late challenge to break a 14-year drought in Canberra by grinding down the ACT Brumbies 29-26 in their Super Rugby match yesterday.
Brumbies’ replacement Nic White snatched an 80th minute try and Christan Lealiifano’s conversion put the home side within three points, but the Sharks repelled a desperate drive after the whistle to notch their first win at Canberra Stadium since 1998.
Fullback Riaan Viljoen scored a brace of tries in the first half and flanker Willem Alberts added another after the break, before winger Lwazi Mvovo scored a fourth in the 62nd minute to give the Durban-based Sharks a bonus point.
The win was the Sharks’ third from six matches in the season and was made easier by a pair of howling errors from the Brumbies.
The hosts were kicking themselves six minutes before halftime, when winger Odwa Ndugane intercepted an ambitious pass and fed Viljoen for the Sharks’ second try.
Another shambolic error in defense gifted the Sharks their third and a six-point lead four minutes after the break.
Flyhalf Matt Toomua knocked the ball out of the air back toward the Brumbies’ try line where winger Henry Speight fumbled, allowing Sharks flanker Alberts to poke the ball over with his foot and fall on top of it at the left post.
The match began as an arm wrestle, but Viljoen drew first blood for the Sharks with his first try in the 21st minute after receiving a long pass from a quickly taken penalty.
Fullback Jesse Mogg struck back for the Brumbies seven minutes later with an inspirational try, streaming down the right wing and collecting his own kick a few meters shy of the line before touching down under the posts.
The Brumbies held a one-point lead at halftime, but were repeatedly denied after the break by desperate defense on the line.
The Sharks counterattacked brilliantly after weathering a 15-phase assault that covered the breadth of their line, with lock Steven Sykes thundering down the left before dishing inside to jet-heeled winger Mvovo at the halfway mark.
Mvovo burned away from the chasing Pat McCabe to score his try and put the Sharks in front 27-19 with less than a quarter left.
White’s unlikely last-gasp try, stepping a defender before crossing near the left corner, raised the hopes of baying fans at the stadium, but prop Ben Alexander’s desperate charge toward the line saw the ball spill free and allow the Sharks to boot it into touch to secure victory.