Lions claw their way back to victory over Sharks

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Staff Writer

Joined: Nov 2016

For much of this match, the Lions appeared devoid of the ambition, urgency and tactical nous to record a first win over the Sharks in Durban since 2017. 

However, having slipped 18-3 behind at the break, they showed the necessary vitality to claw their way back to record a dramatic 20-18 win to keep the Sharks rooted to the bottom of the United Rugby Championship (URC) points table. 

The match may have lacked the quality you’d routinely see from the competition’s leading lights, but it produced a thrilling and nerve-jangling climax as the Lions grabbed the lead in the 78th minute when Sanele Nohamba stung his former team by converting Marius Louw’s back-of-the-maul try. 

The Sharks could have won it with the last act of the game but substitute Boeta Chamberlain missed from the tee after man of the match Eben Etzebeth earned the hosts a get-out-of-jail moment. 

In the build-up much was said of the Sharks’ desperation to win this match, especially with their New York-based majority shareholder Marco Masotti in attendance.

They looked a million bucks in the first half, but Etzebeth was perhaps the only Bok that kept his class in the second. 

Durban of late has not been a fond hunting ground for the Lions. For most of this match they appeared weighed down by that baggage. In the first half in particular, they again made too many elementary errors. 

To be fair, the visitors operated under duress, with the Sharks bringing heat even when they weren’t in possession.

The Sharks’ line speed in defence in particular presented the Lions angst. The Lions also undermined themselves with the poor execution of their tactical kicking. It rarely had the desired result when they applied the boot from open play. It invited unwanted pressure and the Sharks’ second try came as a direct result of a Lions kick that was hoofed out on the full. 

The Lions, however, played with greater resolve in the second half after watching Springboks Makazole Mapimpi and Grant Williams score tries for the Sharks in the first. 

The Sharks scrum operated under much pressure last weekend against the Stormers and while they mostly stood their ground in the first half, the Lions applied the squeeze in the second. 

The Lions also hit their stride in their mauls, but their foothold in that department was rather compromised by their lack of accuracy at the line-out.

It is worth noting though that the fit-again Etzebeth again cut a reassuring presence in the second row. Crucially though, the Lions pounced in that department when it really mattered.

A penalty try after Sharks lock Gerbrandt Grobler collapsed the maul gave them belief. 

Captain Louw, flank Ruan Venter, centre Henco van Wyk and tighthead prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye became more influential after the break. 

ScorersSharks (18) – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Grant Williams. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty: Bosch. Drop: Bosch. 

Lions (20) – Tries: penalty try, Marius Louw. Conversion: Sanele Nohamba. Penalties: Nohamba (3). 


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