Rebels steal draw in dour Durban affair

Super Rugby
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by Beth Newman

A last-gasp Reece Hodge penalty has clinched a 9-9 draw for the Rebels in a tryless affair in Durban.


Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch put the Sharks in front for the first time in the 78th minute ahead before Hodge had one final chance to steal a draw after the siren, to avoid yet another loss in South Africa.

 

There were more red cards given out in this clash than there were five-pointers, with Sharks centre Andrew Esterhuizen and Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker both marched in the game, while Rebels replacement hooker James Hanson also sat out for 10 minutes.

Melbourne played with an extra man from the 18th minute after Sharks centre Esterhuizen was sent packing for a tip tackle on Sefa Naivalu, but still couldn't manage to clinch any kind of clear advantage as the Sharks piled on pressure.

It was a yo-yoing opening stanza for the visitors, Stirzaker handed a yellow card in the fourth minute for a deliberate knockdown before Hodge had their first points from a trademark long-range penalty.

Young prop Tyrel Lomax made his presence felt early in attack, though it was the Sharks who had the most of the territory as the first half ticked over.

Andre Esterhuizen was sent packing in the 18th minute. Photo: Getty ImagesTwo more first-half penalties kept the Rebels with a three-point advantage as Hodge put his boot to good use.

Sixty-three minutes with an extra man became 53 when Rebels replacement hooker Hanson was sent to the bin just two minutes after coming on in the second half, and a Sharks brain snap saved the Rebels from conceding a try, with a five-pointer disallowed after foul play in the preceding maul.

Wayward kicking from Bosch helped the visitors hang onto their lead, but as the Sharks continued to build pressure, points were inevitable and scores evened up with 15 minutes to go.

Stirzaker’s game was ended in the 69th minute, after a second knockdown deep in Sharks attacking territory became his second yellow and gave him an early night.

Both teams had their chances to win it, with Lukhanyo Am and Naivalu denied possible tries by strong tackles late in the match.

Debutant Will Miller was a shining light for the Rebels at openside, finishing with three turnovers including a vital steal just shy of the Sharks’ line in the final stages, but he looked to have given up the win, conceding a penalty as Bosch handed give the Sharks the lead in the 78th minute.

Hodge's third, though, brought scores level once again in the tryless affair and gave the Rebels two competition points for their efforts.

Stirzaker labelled it o'ne for the purists', speaking to South Africa's Super Sports post-match, and the captain not satisfied with just two points.

"Looking at the game not really (happy)," he said.

"We had opportunity to win it, absolutely, but we just couldn’t string too many phases together.

"When we did we looked quite good in the first half, we showed we could split them. Credit to them they’re a tough side to grind down and we knew they would be.

"One for the purists, that one."

Stirzaker said the Rebels battled to escape the Sharks' stranglehold that came after that first card.

"I think they tightened up a bit and tried to slow us down and we couldn’t break out of it, but it is what it is," he said.

The Rebels travel to Port Elizabeth next week to face the Kings, on the second leg of their tour.

RESULT

Sharks 9

Pens: Bosch 3

Red card: Esterhuizen (18’)

Rebels 9

Pens: Hodge 3

Yellow card: Stirzaker (4’), Hanson (53’), Stirzaker (69’)

Red card: Stirzaker (69’ - two yellows)

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