Brumbies blow Sharks away with early blitz
Three tries within the first 24 minutes saw the Brumbies blow away the Sharks in a 38-13 Super Rugby quarter-final victory in Canberra on Saturday.
The Durbanites could never recover from such a slow start, and despite dominating territory and possession in the second half, Robert du Preez’s team seldom found gaps in the Brumbies defence.
The decision by the Sharks coach to keep his son Robert Junior at flyhalf contributed to the lack of bite on attack.
Even though Curwin Bosch came into first receiver from fullback regularly, Du Preez still called the shots, and didn’t offer much out wide as a playmaker or strike-runner either.
One of last week’s heroes against the Stormers, Rhyno Smith, was kept on the bench throughout, and having him at No 15 and Bosch at flyhalf would’ve provided a cutting edge to the Sharks with ball-in-hand.
But it was not to be, as it was left to big centre Andre Esterhuizen to bash the ball up all night long in chilly Canberra.
Esterhuizen did eventually make his breakthrough when he barged over following a driving maul in the second half, but it was too late to bring his team back into the game.
The Brumbies rocked the Sharks in the very first minute when powerful No 8 Pete Samu ghosted through a gap left by Coenie Oosthuizen being unable to get across for the inside pass, with Samu galloping all the way over.
Bosch got his team on to the board with a ninth-minute penalty, but soon after that, Brumbies wing Henry Speight rounded off following a thrilling break by fullback Tom Banks.
Bosch kept the Sharks in the hunt with a second penalty, but around that point, they lost two loose forwards in No 8 Dan du Preez (ribs) and blindside flank Tyler Paul (shoulder), which robbed them of a lot of their physicality upfront.
It meant that openside flank Luke Stringer and lock Gideon Koegelenberg had to come on as replacements, and the Sharks battled to impose themselves on the Brumbies pack.
Christian Lealiifano slotted a penalty to stretch the lead to 17-6, and then Samu grabbed a second try following a strong driving maul.
At 24-6, the game was virtually over, and the Brumbies played in that fashion as they mainly defended for the rest of the game.
The Sharks had enough ball to pull closer, but ill-timed handling errors and a lack of penetration on attack made it a rather easy for the Brumbies to keep them at bay.
Esterhuizen forced his way through just before the hour mark, but the Sharks were unable to score any further points.
Joe Powell and Matt Lucas completed the job with late tries for the Brumbies, who will now travel to Buenos Aires to take on the Jaguares in the semi-finals.
The Crusaders, who beat the Highlanders on Friday, will face the Hurricanes, who got the better of the Bulls on Saturday, in the other semi-final.
Brumbies 38 – Tries: Pete Samu (2), Henry Speight, Joe Powell, Matt Lucas. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (5). Penalty: Lealiifano (1).
Sharks 13 – Try: Andre Esterhuizen. Conversion: Curwin Bosch (1). Penalties: Bosch (2).@ashfakmohamed