They held their own in territory stakes, but with under 40% of the possession, the Sharks made use of an abrasive defence, including 22 dominant hits, to subdue the Lions.
Finding themselves 14-0 down fairly early on in the piece at Kings Park on Saturday afternoon, the Lions were always chasing the game.
Yet, later having reduced that deficit to 17-14, instead of taking the 3 points from a penalty to level the scores, the Lions opted for the lineout drive. A mistake forced by yet more Sharks defence saw Makazola Mapimpi intercept the ball and head in for a 95-metre try, and in effect, a ten-point swing.
Throw in the fact that another 50 of the metres run by the Sharks came from another intercept try, via Curwin Bosch in the first ten minutes of the game, the Sharks effectively made 460m from 58 carries during the rest of the game.
This while the Lions were forced into making just 6.5m a carry from their 132 carries as they mostly hammered away at what was eventually a defensive effort that got the home side across the finish line.
The Sharks missed 33 of 190 attempted tackles, but 22 of the 157 tackles made were dominant, and 6 of them led to turnovers. And given that it was mostly close-quarters tackling, the back up to those missed tackles was often not far away.
The Lions may well deem this as one that got away, though, with small errors negating the obviously superior attacking skills (passing, line breaks, offloads), but the 8 extra handling errors did not help their cause.
And on a humid evening in Durban, in the face of the abrasive Sharks defence, the Lions should perhaps have thought about using the boot a bit more in the fight for territory.
Sharks 27 (14) – Tries: Curwin Bosch, Dan du Preez, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Bosch (3). Penalty goals: Bosch (2).
Lions 17 (7) – Tries: Lionel Mapoe, Cyle Brink. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty goal: Jantjies.
A look at the match stats from Kings Park:
- Points: SHA 27-17 LIO
- Tries: SHA 3-2 LIO
- Penalty goals: SHA 2-1 LIO
- Goal kicking %: SHA 83% – 75% LIO
- Possession: SHA 39% – 61% LIO
- Territory: SHA 50% – 50% LIO
- Ball in play: 32 minutes
- Ball Carries: SHA 60-132 LIO
- Metres run: SHA 606-852 LIO
- Metres per carry: SHA 10.1-6.5 LIO
- Line breaks: SHA 2-4 LIO
- Tackle breaks: SHA 5-10 LIO
- Passes: SHA 83-214 LIO
- Good Passes: SHA 68-186 LIO
- Offloads: SHA 7-13 LIO
- Rucks won: SHA 39-101 LIO
- Mauls won: SHA 5-2 LIO
- Turnovers conceded: SHA 15-16 LIO
- Tackles made: SHA 157-77 LIO
- Tackles missed: SHA 33-15 LIO
- Tackle success: SHA 85% – 85% LIO
- Dominant tackles: SHA 22-3 LIO
- Tackle turnover: SHA 6-2 LIO
- Turnovers won: SHA 4-5 LIO
- Kicks from hand: SHA 21-21 LIO
- Metres kicked: SHA 578-615 LIO
- Metres per kick: SHA 27.5-29.3 LIO
- Handling errors: SHA 14-22 LIO
- Penalties conceded: SHA 8-8 LIO
- Yellow cards: SHA 0-0 LIO
- Red cards: SHA 0-0 LIO
First phase stats:
- Lineouts won: SHA 11-9 LIO
- Lineouts stolen: SHA 0-1 LIO
- Scrums won: SHA 8-6 LIO
- Scrums lost: SHA 0-0 LIO