3/11/2006

Brumbies sink Sharks in stunning revival



The CA Brumbies have scored a 35-30 victory over the Sharks at Canberra Stadium tonight, going on a four-try raid in the final 45 minutes to secure their first bonus point win of the season.

The Sharks stunned the 18,237-strong Canberra Stadium crowd by racing to a 21-6 first-half lead through tries to winger Henno Mentz and captain AJ Venter, before a try by Mark Chisholm ten minutes before the break sparked a powerful come-from-behind victory by  the Brumbies.

Stirling Mortlock crossed twice for the home team, while Mark Gerrard recorded his first career 20-point haul as the Brumbies muscled past the Sharks to maintain their undefeated 2006 record.

The two teams traded penalty goals in the opening ten minutes, Sharks flyhalf Tony Brown opening the scoring in the 2nd minute before Mark Gerrard slotted two of his own to give the Brumbies a 6-3 lead.

The Sharks had the run of play early in the match and were able to convert on their dominance and field position soon after  through a try to winger Henno Mentz. Opposite winger Odwa Ndungane and centre AD Jacobs provided the lead up work to put Mentz away on the right wing. Brown converted from out wide to open up a 10-6 lead for the visiting team in the 12th minute.

The Sharks continued to assert pressure on the Brumbies and in the 18th minute the lead was extended by three points when a drop goal attempt from Brown hit the left upright and deflected through the posts.

Five minutes later he hit another penalty goal to make it 16-6, before skipper AJ Venter stunned the crowd with the Sharks' second try.

Venter started and finished the try, palming off Stirling Mortlock to make the intial bust on the opposition forty metre line, before powering 20m down field and linking with centre Andries Strauss. Stephen Larkham made the try-saving tackle on Strauss but it would be to no avail, as shortly after Venter emerged from the bottom of a ruck with the ball over the try-line.

With the score at 21-6 to the away team, a costly foul by Sharks prop Deon Carstens provided the turning point in the match.

Carstens received a yellow card from referee Paul Honiss in the 35th minute before Mark Chisholm finally broke through for the first Brumbies try.

Chisholm ran from behind the ruck and latched on to a short pass from George Gregan to crash over for the try.

Jolted into action, the Brumbies exploited the one-man overlap on the stroke of full-time when Stirling Mortlock found himself in open space on the right wing to cross for the Brumbies second try in the space of 3 minutes, reducing the half-time defecit to just three points.

The binning of Carstens would prove even more costly for the Sharks on the other side of the half-time break when a beautiful inside ball from George Gregan sent Mark Gerrard streaking away under the posts for the third Brumbies try and a 25-21 lead after just five minutes of play.

With the Sharks prop back on the field, Brown reduced the defecit to a single point with his third penalty goal in the 47th minute.

By then it was the Brumbies however who had stolen the ascendency. After sustaining pressure in the attacking twenty-two for the opening 20 minutes of the half, they finally broke through for the elusive bonus point when a perfectly guided cut-out pass from Stephen Larkham sent Mortlock over untouched for the Brumbies fourth, and his second try of the night.

A penalty goal to each team made the score 35-27 with twelve minutes to play before Brown converted his fifth penalty to put the Sharks within a converted try of victory with three minutes remaining on the clock.

The Sharks mounted a finally assault on the Brumbies, marching down field with a pick and drive movment which rolled down to the Brumbies 22 metre line before George Smith stole the ball to seal the five-point victory for the home side.

Among the best for Brumbies were Chisholm, who broke the line with regularity throughout the match, flyhalf Stephen Larkham, who steered the attack in typically brilliant fashion and Mortlock; who fired his team up with some big-hitting and powerful runs.

CA Brumbies 35 (Stirling Mortlock 2, Mark Chisholm, Mark Gerrard tries; Gerrard 3 conversions, 3 penalty goals) defeated Sharks 30 (Henno Mentz, AJ Venter tries; Tony Brown conversion, 5 penalty goals, drop goal) at Canberra Stadium, Canberra AUS.