Blues on sharp end of Shark attack

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Saturday, March 31, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Unable to contain the strong running of the visitors, the Blues never settled to their own game and were forced into playing catch-up for most of the game and while they shared the try county six-six their infringing ensured that visiting five-eighths Robert du Preez landed seven penalty goals and when adding a try and six conversions he ended with 38 points.

It was a risk taken by coach Tana Umaga to field his ace back Rieko Ioane at second five-eighths and it didn't pay off with his attacking ability well contained by the strong defence closer to the forwards.

Starting in abrasive style the Sharks made the most of their early chances, and taking advantage of Blues mistakes, especially in handling. A scything break by fullback Curwin Bosch opened up the defences and in the resulting play the Sharks lineout defence put pressure on the Blues who sent poor ball the way of halfback Sam Nock which he wasn't able to clear.

From resulting play sharp running halfback Louis Schreuder provided the impetus for his forwards to run onto, a situation in which flanker Jean-Luc du Preez especially thrived. But it was lock and captain Ruan Botha who burst onto a short pass to go over close to the posts.

Breakdown and offside penalties in goal-kicking positions saw first five-eighths Robert du Preez land four early penalty goals to maintain the scoreboard pressure.

Typical of the Blues' misfortune was their claiming of a lineout resulting from a penalty kick to the corner. The maul crabbed across field before No.8 Akira Ioane burst back to the blindside and looked to have scored in the corner. But a TMO check revealed he put a foot in touch.

From the resulting lineout, the Sharks placed a long kick downfield through Bosch in response to a Perofeta cross kick. While the Blues regained the ball their touch clearance saw the Sharks claim the lineout and launch a midfield move which saw Jean-Luc du Preez run in the try, after an inside pass from second five-eighths Andre Esterhuizen, from 35m out – a 14-point turnaround for the Blues.

Ioane did get his try, four minutes into the second half, after Sharks wing Sbu Nkosi was sin-binned for a high tackle on Melani Nanai. From the scrum a penalty was awarded and Ioane took it quickly and took the ball to the line. The ball was moved from one side of the field back to the other where Ioane was back on his feet to score.

They capitalised again, after halfback Jonathan Ruru, who had originally been named to start, replaced Nock and immediately provided urgency although it was Rieko Ioane's clearance from halfback that found lock Patrick Tuipulotu who burned through the Sharks midfield like a centre. Once through he was in open space and cleared out on a 40m run to the line.

Two minutes later a charge down of a Collins kick rebounded to Perofeta who ran straight into a gap, ghosted past defenders and burned the defence on a 50m run to score.

However, the Blues lead was short-lived. The Sharks used a lineout maul to set up a midfield play and lock Stephen Lewies looked set to repeat Tuipulotu's feat but he was hauled in but not before finding Robert du Preez who reclaimed the lead and added the conversion.

He wasn't finished an added another superbly struck penalty goal. There was also time for an injury time to fullback Curwin Bosch.

Scorers: Blues 40 (Michael Collins, Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Stephen Perofeta, Rieko Ioane, George Moala tries; Stephen Perofeta 4 con; Bryn Gatland con) Sharks 63 ( Ruan Botha, Jean-Luc du Preez, Tera Mtembu, Robert du Preez, Jacobus van Wyk, Curwin Bosch tries; Robert du Preez 6 con, 6 pen). HT: 26-7