Super 14 Rugby

Sharks protect unbeaten run with controversial draw



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South Africa’s Sharks remain unbeaten in the Super 14 but only after squeezing out a controversial 13-13 draw with the Hurricanes in this weekend’s feature game.

The Sharks chipped two points off the Crusaders’ lead to trail by six after eight rounds of the southern hemisphere provincial tournament.

But the Durban-based outfit may have been fortunate not to crash to their first defeat this season against the Hurricanes.

The Crusaders and South Africa’s Stormers had the weekend off with a bye.

The Chiefs, Western Force and Waratahs all improved their semi-final chances with contrasting victories this weekend, while the  Blues marked time with a heavy defeat to the Waratahs.

New Zealand’s Chiefs spectacularly ended their hoodoo against the Brumbies, nailing the Canberra team with six tries in a 42-28 flourish in the Australian capital on Friday to climb to fourth on the standings.

The Western Force needed a 79th-minute try to come from behind to snatch a thrilling 15-14 win over the Bulls in Perth also on Friday to occupy fifth spot on scoring percentages.

The Waratahs put behind a tumultuous week to claim their first scoring bonus point of the season with a 37-16 spanking of the Blues in Sydney on Saturday to climb to sixth place.

South Africa’s Cheetahs and New Zealand’s Highlanders both claimed their first Super 14 win of the season — the Cheetahs defeating the Reds 29-14 in Bloemfontein and the Highlanders accounting for the Lions 29-20 in Dunedin.

In soggy Wellington, the Hurricanes were fuming over Australian referee Paul Marks, who took no action when centre Conrad Smith was taken out of play in a potentially try-scoring move in the final seconds.

In a match punctuated by handling errors, there were only two tries and both came in the last 10 minutes.

The Sharks were awarded a penalty try when the Hurricanes were ruled to have collapsed a maul on the try-line, and the Hurricanes replied with a try by Andrew Hore to equalise.

But in the major talking point, Smith appeared to be heading for the match-winning score on full time as he ran unopposed towards the ball bouncing over the try-line when he was tackled from behind by Sharks midfielder Bradley Barritt.

Hurricane players unsuccessfully demanded a penalty try but Marks was unmoved.

The Waratahs gave their most accomplished performance of the season to down the Blues and end a controversial week in which Ewen McKenzie was told officially his coaching contract was not being renewed for next season.

Dominating possession and capitalising on the Blues many errors, the Waratahs always had control of the game, leading 25-11 with 15 minutes left after being 18-8 up at halftime.

The Chiefs gave a breathless performance of running, unstructured rugby for their first win over the Brumbies in 10 Super encounters.

The Hamilton-based side grabbed control of the game with a 28-7 halftime lead, snaring a scoring bonus point for four tries by the 33rd minute as their greater hunger and aggression at the turnover proved too much for the home side.

Western Force, trailing the Bulls 14-3 at half-time and still down by four points with minutes left, scored the winning try through rugby league centre convert Ryan Cross.

Cross, who had struggled all night after a heavy early knock, dived across in the corner for the try that gave the Force their first home win of the season and took their record to 5-3 in a big boost to their playoff hopes.

Sapa-AFP –

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