Sharks cashed in on dominant first half

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Saturday, February 23, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

It was just as well for the Blues that the embarrassment of riches saw the Sharks squander so many opportunities because the halftime score of 19-0 to the home team could have been much higher.
It was tough for both sides in the heat and referee Paul Williams called a drinks break during the first half. In a coincidental way, stoppages for TMO referrals and injuries while disruptive to the flow of the game also helped reduce the heat effect.

Blues pressure in the second half made life much more difficult for the home team and it was only fierce defence that kept the New Zealanders from scoring more than their one try. The last-minute intercept try to replacement fullback Curwin Bosch inflated the final margin and did not reflect the pressure the home team had been under, especially in the last quarter.

Breaking the Blues defence in the sixth minute, following a turned over lineout, with a well-placed grubber kick, centre Lukhanyo Am provided wing Makazole Mapimpi with the chance to toe the ball on. He then regathered the ball, drew the defence and in-passed to fullback Aphelele Fassi to complete the try.

Looking to use their maul at every opportunity from lineouts, the Sharks gained reward after 15 minutes when hooker Akker van der Merwe emerged from the middle of the maul to score.

The Blues defence had to work hard for the remainder of the half, avoiding conceding another try when the ball was ruled held up over the line.

But it was when the Sharks were hot on attack, and safe in the knowledge they were playing under advantage, three minutes before halftime, when the Blues defence was stretched, that first five-eighths Robert du Preez went over under the posts in the tackle of prop Ofa Tuungafasi to take a 19-0 lead to the break.

There was controversy around the 57th minute when the Blues looked to have scored a fine team try with first five-eighths Otere Black scoring. However, TMO Marius Jonker ruled out the try claiming obstruction at the back of the scrum from which the move initiated.

But five minutes after they again found a way through the home defence to see replacement wing Tanielu Tele'a mark his debut with a try.

Throwing caution to the wind, the Blues mounted more attacks and they had some hope when lock Ruan Botha was sin-binned for a cynical foul when 12 minutes remained in the game.

The Sharks defence held firm in his absence however, and the final disappointment for the Blues came as they looked to mount another assault at the Sharks' line only to have a pass intercepted by Bosch and with his speed, and an open field in front of him there was only going to be one result.

That also nailed a try-scoring bonus point for the Sharks.

Scorers: Sharks 26 (Aphelele Fassi, Akker van der Merwe, Rob du Preez, Curwin Bosch tries; Robert du Preez 3 con) Blues 7 (Tanielu Tele'a try' Otere Black con). HT: 19-0.