The Cell C Sharks did most of the job in a scintillating first half as they romped to a 53-0 win over the Southern Kings in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday.
Although the Sharks produced some dazzling rugby and were ruthless in punishing Kings mistakes, the sheer lack of nous and effort on defence by the visitors did irk for those who want to see a good contest.
The Kings were much-improved in the second half, but by then, with the Sharks already 43-0 up at halftime, they were left with far too much of a mountain to climb.
The Sharks sealed the bonus point with a devastating burst of three tries in five minutes midway through the first half, and the five points they collected from the game ensures that they stay in touch with the Lions, the pacesetters from Joburg having gained a bonus point win over the Jaguares earlier in the afternoon.
The Sharks’ strategy of avoiding the physical Kings at close quarters and instead attacking them out wide paid dividends because the defence was too narrow and slow to shift across.
And the opening try came in the eighth minute as the Sharks shipped the ball wide and found outside centre Paul Jordaan in space, and then flyhalf Pat Lambie produced a great supporting run on his inside to receive the scoring pass.
Lambie and replacement flank Tera Mtembu then produced good runs to set up a 14th-minute penalty for Lambie (8-0).
Five minutes later, Kings wing Lukhanyo Am roared through the defences and was stopped just short of the line. To the utter frustration of the Kings, possession was then recycled but knocked on, with the rampant Lambie picking up the loose ball and racing away, passing to Jordaan for the pace man to finish off (15-0).
The Kings were not only battling to handle the width and pace of the Sharks game, but they were also being ousted off the ball at scrum time. One such strong scrum by the Sharks in the 22nd minute saw the home side fashion a try any skilful Australian backline would have been proud of – Willie le Roux found Jordaan out wide with a lovely pass, the outside centre then passing back inside for the fullback to storm over for the try.
From the kickoff, a very good interchange between wing JP Pietersen and flank Keegan Daniel saw the Sharks attack down the right before Jordaan was sent racing down the outside for his second try.
Some fine play by the Sharks had been rewarded on the scoreboard as they raced into a 29-0 lead in the first half-hour, but the lovely rugby was not quite over yet as the home side sealed a sumptuous first half with two more tries.
A good run by wing Lwazi Mvovo was followed by Le Roux’s acute vision putting centre Andre Esterhuizen in the gap, and although he probably should have passed, he powered over for the try himself, taking a defender over the line with him.
Lovely hands by the forwards then worked Pietersen over in the corner for the sixth try two minutes before the break, Lambie converting from the touchline to make the score 43-0.
There was no coming back from that awful first half for the Kings, but they did at least restore some pride in the second half.
The Sharks did score in the first 10 minutes after the break, Lambie getting on the end of a chip from Pietersen and running 50 metres to score, but a more sturdy defensive effort from the Kings meant the Sharks only scored again with just three minutes left in the match.
Replacement Odwa Ndungane fielded a kick and launched a superb counter-attack from the back, the kick ahead by Mvovo forcing the penalty inside the Kings’ 22. From the tap and then the ruck, replacement prop Thomas du Toit picked up and rumbled over the line for the eighth and final try.
Lambie, Jordaan and Daniel were the stars of the show for the Sharks, but the scrum laid the perfect platform and the good, clean ball from the forwards was put to fine use by the home side.
Cell C Sharks: Tries – Pat Lambie (2), Paul Jordaan (2), Willie le Roux, Andre Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, Thomas du Toit. Conversions – Lambie (5). Penalty – Lambie.