May 20, 2018

Sharks too strong in Durban

The Sharks have handed the Gallagher Chiefs their fourth loss of the season, taking out a closely fought match 28-24 at Kings Park in Durban.

In a match where momentum swung back and forth, with each side scoring three tries, a strong finish from the Chiefs was not enough to deny the South African side a deserved win after they dominated territory and possession throughout the 80 minutes, doing enough for four competition points with the Chiefs earning a losing bonus point right on fulltime.

A positive start from the home side saw them swoop into Chiefs territory in the opening minutes, earning a penalty well within the range of sharp shooter Robert du Preez, and the first five made no mistake to give his side an early lead.

After the Chiefs managed to string some phases together, looking organised with ball in hand, a turnover allowed the Sharks to break downfield once more. The Chiefs defence was unable to prevent several waves of attack and eventually du Preez strolled over the line for the opening try of the match. His conversion made it 10-0 in as many minutes.

Despite the early setback, the visitors did not panic and a patient build up was followed by a penalty which gave the Chiefs a line out 10 metres from the line. A throw over the top found lock Tyler Ardron in space and he charged his way through several tackles to get the Chiefs on the scoreboard.

With the action swinging from end to end, fullback Shaun Stevenson was then called on to make a superb try saving tackle after the Sharks had broken clear from a kick inside their own 22.

As the match headed into the second quarter it was the Sharks who began to assert some dominance with good field position, but a gutsy Chiefs defence was managing to hold them out.

After weathering the storm, the Chiefs won a penalty 40 metres out and first five Marty McKenzie stepped up to convert, levelling the scores as halftime approached.

Just before the break there was a chance for the Chiefs down the left wing as Stevenson found a half-gap, but the final offload didn't go to hand, and the scores remained locked up after the first 40 minutes.

It took the Sharks just 90 seconds to strike after the restart, as they won possession from the kick off and eventually found space out wide with left wing Lwazi Mvovo finishing off to put his side back in front.

With the home side looking to build once more, against the run of place Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai jumped into the Sharks backline to snatch an intercept, scoring under the posts with McKenzie adding the extras for the Chiefs' first lead of the game.

The lead lasted a matter of minutes however, as du Preez struck another penalty to nudge the Sharks back in front at the 50-minute mark.

A killer blow came soon after when, from a scrum five metres out, replacement halfback Cameron Wright picked up and found acres of space to score a simple try under the posts. The conversion from du Preez stretched the lead to eight points with just over a quarter of the match remaining.

There was then third penalty for du Preez at the 67-minute mark, extending the lead out to a comfortable 11 points.

The final 10 minutes saw the Chiefs play some of their best rugby of the match, holding on to the ball for long phases, but they lacked the finishing touch as they desperately looked for more points.

In injury time there was finally some reward for the Chiefs efforts, as some slick hands saw wing Solomon Alaimalo put into space and he showed great speed to finish off from halfway in the left-hand corner. The late converted try earned the Chiefs a losing bonus point.

But in the end it was too little, too late with the Sharks hanging on for a well-deserved 28-24 win.

Gallagher Chiefs 24 (Tyler Ardron, Charlie Ngatai, Solomon Alaimalo tries; Marty McKenzie 3 cons, pen) Sharks 28 (Robert du Preez, Lwazi Mvovo, Cameron Wright tries; du Preez 2 cons, 3 pens) HT: 10-10.

The Gallagher Chiefs now return home with their next match against the Waratahs at FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday 26 May (kick off 7.35pm).