I was at the game tonight, and it was one of those great rugby experiences. The ground sound effects are fantastic and should have been enough on their own to put an opponent off, but the Sharks were not to be deterred.
The crowd did everything it could to bring the boys home, and the lads themselves threw everything at the Sharks but the kitchen sink.
My take on the game was that it was a major arm wrestle, but the Sharks had us covered (if only just) in all departments.
Neither side could really break the other’s line, but the Brumbies made some unfortunate handling errors in the first half, and the ref a major mistake when he awarded a penalty to the Sharks near the post.
The Sharks took a quick tap, then committed a blatant knock-on and scored a try from it. It was missed by the ref and the touchy, but not by the slow-mo replay, and definitely not by the crowd!
Unfortunate, and probably a game changer. Nevertheless, the better team probably still won.
The Brumbies, 10 points down with two minutes to go, score a try under the posts and converted it. The clock was down to zero, but the ref called for the kick off, the Brumbies held the ball through many phases and ground their way up the paddock until, only twenty metres out, they spilled it and the Sharks booted it into the grandstand.
Nobody went home unfulfilled – it was a good effort. I thought that one or two Brumbies were slightly off the pace. McCabe played on the left wing, where I don’t think he looked comfortable, and probably didn’t come infield looking for work as much as he might have. When he did, he was always dangerous.
Tomane was the same on the right wing, and I kept hoping that Jake White would swap them over. Mogg had a great game at the back and scored one of the best tries of the season to date.
The team played a relatively safety-first game: not too many complex moves, Steve Moore gutsed it up the middle on many occasions, but nothing the boys did could break the defensive line of the Sharks.
Nic White was the replacement half and I was wishing that he could have been brought on earlier, as the backline needed someone darting from the rucks. Prior is a good half-back but he is not a darter, like White. It should have been horses for courses tonight.
It also occurs to me that as the Sharks are currently only third in their conference, (remaining there despite tonight’s win), that may be an indicator of the relative strengths of the conferences.
The Australian teams have not yet played too many of the South African teams, so we might be in for some interesting results.