Sharks widen gap after holding out Blues
The Sharks extended their lead at the top of the Super 15 ladder with a gutsy 29-23 win over the Auckland Blues at North Harbour stadium on Friday (23/05/2014).
The win puts Jake White's men nine points ahead of nearest rivals the ACT Brumbies and Waikato Chiefs on the ladder and extends their winning streak over the Blues to 10 straight games.
The Sharks led throughout but had to call on their renowned defence to hold off the Blues after receiving two yellow cards in the second half of a tight game which featured two tries apiece.
They are now in pole position as the Super 15 competition heads into a break next week, achieving the rare feat of winning three of four matches on the road in Australasia.
"Three wins against three tough teams, we're happy with that," captain Bismarck du Plessis said.
"We wanted to put them under pressure at scrum time and line outs and we did that, particuarly in the first half."
The loss leaves the Blues stranded at the bottom of the New Zealand conference and dents their play-off hopes, leaving then reliant on ther teams' results to secure a finals berth.
The teams exchanged penalties in a frenetic first 10 minutes before the Sharks pounced on a turnover and winger Sibusiso Sithole slipped through a gap to set up his skipper Bismarck du Plessis for a try.
JP Pietersen came close to scoring a second only to fumble the ball on the line then Steyn surprised the Blues by potting a drop goal in the 26th minute to make it 13-6.
Another penalty extended the lead to 16.-6 at the break but a yellow card for Jannie du Plessis gave the home side a one-man advantage just after the restart.
They made the most of the opportunity when Luke Braid darted over the line from the base of a scrum.
The Sharks hit back through a long-range kick and chase try from
Cobus Reinach reminisecent of his effort in the Sharks' epic win against the Crusaders last week, when they played with 14 men for most of the match.
They were down to 14 men for a second 10-minute period against the Blues when Frans Steyn was sinbinned for obstruction, again allowing the Blues back into the game when Tevita Li burst down the wing for a try.
The Sharks held on, although a late Blues penalty made it 29-23 and ensured there were some nervous moments for the South Africans in the final stages. - Sapa-AFP