The Sharks secured top spot in the Currie Cup standings with a comprehensive 42-3 victory over a sloppy Griquas side at Kings Park on Friday.
Was that the longest half in Currie Cup rugby this year - the second half of this match? It dragged on and on. The match as a contest was over and yet the time groaned on. There were two tries in the half, not that that mattered.
The Griquas were so disappointing. They have been such a lively, creative side this season, one of two teams to make the Currie Cup memorable. But on this dark evening at Kings Park with just a sprinkling of spectators, they were desultory at best.
They started off well enough winning quick ball, but making no impression on the Sharks and so they lost interest, except for one tiny burst in the second half. Where their main weapon has been clever handling and close support it became this time the maul which hardly moved. And when it did move, the Sharks pulled it down. The Sharks did that three times and their captain Keegan Daniel was sent to the sin bin and may have been fortunate to avoid a second trip when he did it again in the second half.
The energy belonged to the Sharks, especially Cobus Reinach, Keegan Daniel and Louis Ludik, and the skill belonged above all to Pat Lambie, the young man with the golden touch. In the game, apart from defence inside his 22, he kicked five times, not one of them an up-'n-under.
Of course, the Sharks deserved to win. Five tries to nil tells a serious story of a one-sided match. Of course, they deserved their bonus points and their unassailable position at the top of the log with a home semifinal next weekend.
Lively Reinach, who plays with such glee, set up the first try, breaking blind from a tackle/ruck. He passed inside to Odwa Ndungane who looked set to score but eager Marnus Hugo tackled him. Ndungane popped the ball to Reinach who scored with a swanky dive. 7-0 after 9 minutes. Hugo's tackle damaged Ndungane and he limped off, replaced by Lwazi Mvovo.
Reinach went speeding through a gap but was knocked over about five metres from the Griquas line. Brave Leon Karemaker was back but the Griquas were penalised. 10-0. Soon afterwards the Sharks were penalised at a tackle and François Brummer, who had missed with his first kick, goaled. 10-3 after 18 minutes, as close as Griquas got.
This was their best time in the match - quick ball, scrumming powerfully and but then it fizzled out.
Lambie kicked down into the Griquas territory. Walter Venter got the ball and passed inside to Willie le Roux. Astonishingly the fullback knocked on. From the five-metre scrum the Sharks attacked and Lambie shoved a tiny, delicate grubber towards the goal-line. Aggressive Louis Ludik swooped onto the ball and scored. 15-3 after 28 minutes.
Daniel went to sit out for 10 minutes, Griquas bashed from a line-out but the Sharks were next to score. They got onto the attack, Lambie gave a delicate pass to Mvovo on his inside and the wing beat two defenders in scoring. 22-3 which was the half-time score.
Just before half-time Jannie Boshoff was sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle on Paul Jordaan, the sort of tackle which would have led to a suspension a while back but not in recent times.
JP Pietersen, Ludik and Daniel got the Sharks close to the Griquas line where Marnus Schoeman was penalised. 25-3.
Pietersen broke and the Sharks were close on the far left but their hands let them down. Schoeman was again penalised. 28-3 after 53 minutes.
After many phases Lubabalo Mtembu, a late replacement after Jacques Botes withdrew, scored the bonus-point try in the left corner. Lambie converted from touch. 35-3 with 9 minutes to play.
Jordaan won a turnover off Schoeman who was fighting to the finish, Pietersen got the ball away and the Sharks raced onto the attack. Ludik passed inside to Charl McLeod who had an unimpeded path to the posts. It was the best-constructed try of the match.
Man of the Match: Pat Lambie, playing his first full match in weeks and playing it in the most delightful way.
Tries: Reinach, Ludik, Mvovo, Mtembu, McLeod
Cons: Lambie 4
Pens: Lambie 3
Yellow cards: Daniel (Collapsing maul, 31 mins) Boshoff (Dangerous tackle, 40 mins)
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 , 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandré Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.Marcell Coetzee
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.
Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynard Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Wesley Wilkins, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Richard Lawson.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistants: Ben Crouse, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Shaun Veldsman