The Sharks came back from 17-0 down to beat defending champions the Queensland Reds 27-22 in the Super 15 on Saturday.
South Africa’s Sharks racked up 20 unanswered points in just more than 20 minutes to send Australia’s Queensland to their first defeat of the season.
The Sharks scored tries at Kings Park through replacement Jandre Marais, captain Keegan Daniel and fullback Riaan Viljoen. Queensland also scored three tries, but lost control as heavy rain lashed down in the second half in Durban, South Africa.
First-half tries by hooker James Hanson and loose forward Scott Higginbotham had put the visiting Reds well ahead before the Sharks’ rampaging fightback.
Flyhalf Patrick Lambie kicked 12 points for the Sharks, who improve their record to 2-2. Queensland are now 3-1, but collected a losing bonus point to stay top of the Australian conference and third in the overall Super 15 standings. The Sharks moved up to seventh.
“I’m proud of the boys, we finished off strongly in conditions that weren’t great,” Daniel said.
Hanson burst away from a maul in the 10th minute to rumble over for the first strike for the Reds, who regularly breached the Sharks’ defense in the opening half-hour.
Higginbotham dived over in the 25th after a surging attack from the defending champions that involved backs and forwards, and nearly saw front rower Hanson go over for his second. He was dragged down just short, but scrumhalf Will Genia found Higginbotham from the next ruck and the big flanker went over.
Marais hit back for the Sharks when he was driven over in the 34th to put the home team on the board. Lambie’s boot closed the gap to 17-13 as the Sharks’ comeback gained momentum.
The Sharks were frustrated by a string of near misses as left wing Lwazi Mvovo had a try disallowed at the end of the first half for an infringement at a ruck, and flanker Marcell Coetzee and the other wing, Odwa Ndungane, were then denied just short of the tryline.
However, No. 8 Daniel’s try in the 54th when he broke from the back of a scrum and shrugged off a tackle by Beau Robinson took the Sharks from 17-0 down to 18-17 ahead in a rampant spell either side of halftime.
The Reds were also hampered by a yellow card to Wallabies wing Digby Ioane and injuries to backline playmakers and goalkickers Ben Lucas and Mike Harris, and they struggled to hold on to possession in deteriorating weather in the second 40.
Ioane was later cited for foul play and is facing possible suspension for a tackle in which he lifted and drove Sharks flanker Marcell Cotzee backwards. SANZAR said yesterday the citing commissioner reviewed the incident on video after the match and decided to charge Ioane.
Nick Frisby came off the bench to swing the game back toward the Reds in the 58th when he followed up a hack through, took a pass from Ioane and wriggled over in the right corner.
The Sharks came straight back two minutes later as the rain -hammered down on South Africa’s east coast. Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis created a turnover and Viljoen ran on to a skip pass from Daniel and stepped inside the drifting Reds defense to again put the Sharks in control at 27-22 with Lambie’s third conversion.
Scrumhalf Genia was forced into goalkicking duties without flyhalf Lucas and center Harris and he crucially missed the conversion from Frisby’s try and a penalty from in front in the 68th as the Reds fell away for their first defeat this year.
“It never helps when both your playmakers go down,” Queensland captain James Horwill said. “We fell off some tackles and credit to the Sharks, they held on to the ball and created some pressure. We should have adapted to the conditions better. We’ll have to get over this.”