Ten out of Ten

The Cell C Sharks cannot be usurped at the top of the Currie Cup log following our 24-10 victory over the Golden Lions at a wet Growthpoint KINGS PARK on Friday evening.

While the player warm-up was taking place, the Toto classic Africa was played over the public address, and boy was it serendipitous as the rain truly came down, shades of last week’s match also played in exceptionally wet conditions.

While the wet ball hardly meant this would ever be a performance that could be rated 10/10, our 10th successive victory in the competition secured top of the table status regardless of the final two weeks action before the knock-outs, and ensured that the Cell C Sharks won’t travel again in the competition for as long as we remain in it.

It was clear from the outset that this was going to be hugely combative as the teams smashed away at each other, with an early penalty – in the 4th minute – sent through the posts by Curwin Bosch to get the scoreboard turning over. Given the conditions, it was important that any scoring opportunities were taken instead of chasing tries and the Cell C Sharks had no compunction about going for the three points instead of kicking to touch and chasing the try.

But the try did come soon afterwards, the Lions kicking the ball ahead on attack but Michael Claassens latched onto it and made a break before kicking the ball up-field for the chasers. The Lions got back, but the ball was stolen and then the forwards got stuck in with Thomas du Toit finally driving over.

The scoreboard continued to tick over with a strong attacking build-up in the Lions’ 22 being thwarted, but not without conceding a penalty in front of the posts which Bosch had no trouble converting for a handy 11-nil lead around the 20 minute mark.

Moments later, the Lions had a pushover try disallowed before referee Stuart Berry made the call to postpone the game for safety reasons given the lightning that was regularly flashing around the stadium.

Just over a quarter of the game had been played when the break in play came but fortunately the storm abated as did the rain and 15 minutes later the teams returned to the field to play out the half.

The Lions probably enjoyed territorial advantage in the second quarter but up against our stern defence, had no real answer and failed to trouble the scorers as the half closed out with the Cell C Sharks maintaining our 11 point lead.

The second half battled to get out of second gear with the slippery ball not making handling at all easy with attacking play regularly breaking down in mid-stride. The Lions finally broke the duck with a scrum penalty in the 53rd minute, their first score and the first of the half.

Not two minutes later, Bosch cancelled it out with a penalty of his own, this time the Lions blown up at the scrum.

The game sparked into life with a fantastic break from Garth April who made serious inroads into Lions’ territory and although the visitors regained possession and managed to clear from their 22, Odwa Ndungane latched onto the ball and managed to elude three defenders enroute to the tryline.

Bosch converted from out wide and at 21-3 up with 17 minutes of the match remaining, the Cell C Sharks looked in control.

The Lions, forced to chase the game were attacking from deep in their own half, reluctant to kick ahead and relinquish possession, but in the panic, they couldn’t hold on and the ball was stolen, we countered and Bosch was fed the ball in the channel to convert a neat drop-goal.

With 45 seconds left on the clock, we conceded a runaway try for the Lions to have the last word on the scoreboard, but it was too late for any consequence.