Rugby: Sharks taste success at last

Riaan Swanepoel of the Sharks offloads the ball as he is tackled by Adam Thomson of the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images
Riaan Swanepoel of the Sharks offloads the ball as he is tackled by Adam Thomson of the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images

The Sharks finally broke their duck with a 30-16 Super 14 rugby win over the Highlanders in Dunedin tonight.

It marked the first success in six matches for the South Africans this season and came at the expense of a Highlanders team now boasting a similarly mediocre one-win, five-loss record.

The result was only confirmed two minutes from fulltime when Sharks centre Adrian Jacobs grabbed an intercept try to make the match safe for his side.

That came barely 90 seconds after Highlanders replacement wing Fetu'u Vainikolo was denied a try by the television official following a sweet backline move featuring the other wing Ben Smith.

Repeated replays were required before Vainikolo was ruled to have grounded the ball just short of the line and the Sharks made the most of the reprieve.

The Sharks had led 23-9 at one stage following a fine try to wing Stefan Terblanche before the Highlanders finally found the tryline themselves thanks the Smith's strength in the 68th minute when the home side attacked down the short side from a scrum.

The Sharks had led 10-6 at halftime after defending stoutly and living off scraps of possession.

The Highlanders won a flood of ball and dominated territory but had only two Dagg penalties to show for their exertions as their play was riddled by handling errors.

They lacked the continuity required to finish off promising moves and were galled to concede a try on the only occasion the South Africans visited their 22 in the opening 40 minutes.

That came in the 23rd minute when hooker Bismarck du Plessis crossed after sharp leadup work by Keegan Daniel and Ruan Pienaar, the latter of whom ended the match with 15 points from his goalkicking.

Aside from that the Sharks were deployed very much on a defensive brief for the duration of the first half, a role they stuck to with such rigidity that the Highlanders could not manage even a single try despite spending plenty of time hot on attack.

- NZPA

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