The Western Force have gone down 15–9 to the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban. It was yet another case of ‘What might have been’ for the Force who had made the majority of the running and led for most of the game.
The crucial moments in the match went against the visitors. The Sharks took their chances to score two good tries, but the Force had three opportunities to get over the line go begging. Two errors were of their own making but they also copped a bad call from the TMO.
In the end they had to rely on a last minute penalty shot to salvage a losing bonus point.
Dane Haylett-Petty marking Renaldo Bothma
The Sharks’ pack showed their scrummaging dominance early by winning the ball against the feed on the first set piece. Referee Nick Briant had to repeatedly call for the scrums to be set higher and pinged Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira for hinging – and while the Force won some penalties as a result, it was clear that the Sharks had the better scrum. The Force began opting for lineouts over scrums where possible as the match went on.
Other areas of the Sharks’ game were less impressive. Hooker Kyle Cooper fluffed several of his lineout throws. Kicks in general play went out on the full, and Frans Steyn missed a penalty and a drop-goal attempt. Despite dominating the territory and possession for the first quarter, the Sharks had no points to show. The momentum started to turn for the Force.
Steve Mafi and Ben McCalman – best for the Force
The first real attacking opportunity for the Force came in the 27th minute, after Sharks’ prop Jannie du Plessis (JdP) was penalised for binding on Pek Cowan’s arm. The Force kicked for touch and won the lineout 15m out.
Steve Mafi advanced it to the 5 metre line amidst heavy Sharks defence. Ben McCalman passed it to Luke Morahan who went close. From a 5m attacking lineout the ball was passed wide to Dane Haylett-Petty (DHP) who advanced to within a metre of the line in centre field. On the pick and go, McCalman dived for the line and planted the ball on the paint!
Unfortunately for the Force the decision process went upstairs to Television Match Official Marius Jonker. Jonker, who controversially advised against a red card for Steyn after his tip tackle on Chiefs’ flyhalf Aaron Cruden last week, somehow decided that there wasn’t sufficient evidence for the try and referee Briant ruled as such.
Sias Ebersohn and Nick Briant
The Force had to make do with a penalty shot which Sias Ebersohn duly slotted. The game opened up towards the end of the half with Mafi and McCalman involved in a series of pick and goes as the Force advanced again to the tryline. After more than 15 phases, the Sharks infringed by not rolling away and Ebersohn kicked the goal to take a 6–0 lead with 2 mins to go in the half.
As light rain started to fall, the Sharks finally got on the board with a long bounce pass from Steyn to SP Marais. Marais got on the outside of Morahan and scored in left corner. Steyn missed the conversion to leave the score at 5–6 in the 43rd minute.
Sharks fullback SP Marais
The Force returned to making the running and monopolised possession for the rest of the third quarter. A sniping Alby Mathewson kicked ahead and got within 10m but lost possession. Kane Koteka made another good run and a series of pick and goes got Adam Coleman within 8m. Unfortunately his teammate Wilhelm Steenkamp conceded a penalty for accidental obstruction. The problem for the Force was that they couldn’t convert possession into points.
Bench players from both sides came on at the 60 minute mark. Fred Zeilinga, the replacement flyhalf for the Sharks, put down an immediate marker by kicking a penalty goal to give the Sharks an 8–6 lead in the 63rd minute. Two minutes later Ebersohn had the chance to take the lead back for the Force but missed a sitter from 23m out that was almost straight in front.
Force scrum half Alby Mathewson
The Sharks then broke the shackles with fullback Marais making a clean break from his own to 22 to over half way, before Lwazi Mvovo ran another 40m to score! Zeilinga converted to make it 15–6 with 13 minutes to go.
To their credit, the Force kept pressing with their running and passing game. In the 73rd minute, Mafi crashed over to touch down from 5m out. Referee Briant was set to award the try before the assistant referee asked him to check for obstruction – and, sure enough, the replay showed that McCalman had cleaned out defenders past the ruck. No try.
There was to be another chance with two minutes remaining. After nine phases of build-up, Force prop Chris Heiberg breached the defence and got within 2m of the line. Ian Prior then took it forward. The pass came out to Kyle Godwin on the right wing with the line open and… he dropped the ball!
Luke Burton managed to kick a penalty goal in the final minute to claim a losing bonus point for the Force. Final score: Sharks 15–9.
The game changer
The disallowed try to Ben McCalman at the half hour mark. From that point onward in a low scoring game it was clearly not going to be their day, although they did get a couple of further chances.
The GAGR MOTM
Steve Mafi – strong performance in the Force backrow alongside Kane Koteka and Ben McCalman. For the Sharks, Jean Deysel and SP Marais stood out.
Ben McCalman – continued his good run of form. On the other hand, Kyle Godwin, Pek Cowan and Nick Cummins didn’t do a lot to advance their cause. Players to watch for the future: Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty.
The Sharks: 15
Western Force: 9
Ebersohn (30, 38)
Referee:: Nic Briant