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Sharks defeat Western Force Gold in nine-try thriller

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On a beautiful evening (for this time of the year when temps are expected to be about 10 degrees lower!), a Sharks Invitational team ran out 36-31 winners over The Western Force Gold in an intense, action-packed match in front of an 8000-strong crowd.


Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg lends itself to fantastic rugby enjoyment for partisan crowds who flock from what might be aptly described as a University town, to support the Sharks in whatever guise they may take, and certainly the atmosphere and close proximity of the supporters to the field at this lovely venue add to the enjoyment.


The game see-sawed as the Sharks would take a commanding lead in both halves, only to relinquish the margin through strong fight-backs by the visiting Western Force Gold who displayed a lot of spirit with a never-say-die attitude that contributed to this exciting match that seldom dipped below a frantic pace.


At the break, the Sharks held a narrow five point lead (15-10) courtesy of a brace of tries to wing Howard Noble (brother of Dusty), with Greg Goosen adding a further five points with a conversion and penalty.  The Western Force, trailing by 12 points as the half-time whistle loomed large, were by no means out of it and had played some enterprising rugby, to score a converted try on the stroke of half time. Had some poor handling not let them down, they may well have gone into the break leading.


As it was, the half had no shortage of high-paced action and the spectators witnessed some outstanding rugby from both sides who looked to run the ball at every opportunity.  Both sides continued the second half as they had played the first, with a constant search for tries.


A 14 point burst in a matter of minutes early in the second half saw the Sharks stretch their lead to 19 points as first Okkie Vermeulen, and then Sandile Nxumalo scored with Scott Spedding converting both, with Spedding setting up the first of the two with an outstanding up-an-under and re-gather, with Dean Hall’s strong running playing a prominent role in both tries.


However, the Force were not going to lie down and concede defeat, the tries galvanising them into action.  Scoring twice themselves, they made it a five point game as the match began to wind down, with the Sharks hanging on for a 29-24 lead.


As the clock ticked down, both teams got over for a try as the Sharks managed to maintain a lead they had held for most of the game.  The Force may have had the last word when wing Brett Stapleton scored in the last movement of the game, but the Sharks had done enough to prevent defeat.


In all, the Sharks deserved to win a game filled with exciting rugby that produced nine tries.


In the curtain-raiser, the Natal Schools’ side beat a Sharks Academy XV 14-10 in a closely contested match.


Scorers:


Sharks Invitational: 36  (15)


Tries:  Howard Noble (2), Sandile Nxumalo, Craig BurdenConversions: Greg Goosen (3), Rudi Dames (1) 


Penalties: Greg Goosen (1)


Western Force Gold: 31  (10)


Tries: Alexander Peden (2), Chris O’Young, Brett Stapleton Conversions:  Brock James (4)


Penalties: Brock James (1)

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