Coetzee scores last-minute winner for Sharks
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee scored in the final minute to see off a second-half rally from the Lions and give the Durban side a 37-23 win in Super 15 rugby on Saturday.
Coetzee went over on the back of a driving maul to give the Sharks their fourth try of the game and a handy bonus point, maintaining their early lead at the top of the standings.
The Sharks led 30-9 with half an hour to go, but a spirited fightback by the Lions narrowed the gap to just one converted try to set up a tense final 10 minutes.
Lions replacement Corne Fourie was sent to sin-bin with five minutes remaining to give the Sharks some breathing space, and their push for the bonus-point score paid off.
It took just eight minutes for the Sharks to record their first try as a turnover was spread wide to Lwazi Mvovo, whose chip over the top of the Lions defense was juggled and then held by Paul Jordaan.
The centre’s try was converted by Francois Steyn, who was standing in for Pat Lambie after the regular flyhalf was diagnosed with tick bite fever.
After Lions fullback Marnitz Boshoff landed two penalties to narrow the gap to a point, Steyn responded with three penalties in 13 minutes - the third of them from 55 meters out.
Scrumhalf Jacobus Reinach extended the Sharks lead moments before halftime when he seized on a loose ball at the back of a lineout and sidestepped two defenders on the way to the tryline.
“We used our opportunities - when we got into their 22 we came away with points, and Frans Steyn was exceptional slotting in for Pat Lambie,” Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said.
With Odwa Ndungane scoring the Sharks’ third try after the break it appeared as though the game might become one-sided, but the Lions kept at it and were rewarded with an opportunist’s try by scrumhalf Francois de Klerk.
Sharks No. 8 Ryan Kankowski was sent off from the same move, and five minutes later Deon van Rensburg got on the end of Boshoff’s grubber to narrow the gap to seven points.
However the Sharks maintained their composure, and with Fourie handed a yellow card moments before Kankowski returned from the bin, the home side grabbed the all-important fourth try in the dying moments.
Sharks 37 (Paul Jordaan, Jacobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane, Marcel Coetzee tries; Francois Steyn 4 conversions, 3 penalties), Lions 23 (Francois de Klerk, Deon van Rensburg tries; Marnitz Boshoff 2 conversions, 3 penalties). HT: 23-9