Sharks secure vital victory away from home.
The Melbourne Rebels were their own worst enemy as they handed the Super Rugby front-running Sharks a 22-16 win at AAMI Park on Friday evening.
The Rebels dominated territory and possession but let themselves down with costly handling errors while penalties helped keep the visitors in the lead.
Melbourne’s defence held firm until the 63rd minute when they again turned over the ball and the Sharks counter-attacked and raced downfield, with winger JP Pietersen touching down.
That blew the lead out to 22-9 with their earlier points coming from South African sharp-shooter Frans Steyn, who booted five from five for a 15-6 half-time scoreline.
In their usual fashion, the Rebels, who have won six of their last seven games at home, refused to lay down.
They hammered the Sharks tryline and after repeated penalties five-eighth Bryce Hegarty took a quick tap and fired a long ball out to reserve hooker Pat Leafa who burrowed over the line.
Jason Woodward added the extras but the clock was against the Rebels, who ran out of time to find the necessary points.
They kept at it, even after full-time, and got to within 10 metres before a penalty for failing to release the ball.
Woodward made a superb break midway through the first half, beating six Sharks defenders and as the Rebels sent the ball across field they forced a penalty and their first points of the game.
The athletic full-back added a second penalty and although they came desperately close to scoring, with flanker Colby Fainga’a just centimetres away, could not get across the tryline until Leafa’s effort.
No South African team had managed to win in Australia or New Zealand this season but the competition leaders broke the mould which followed a shock loss to the Highlanders last round.
The win will add a little more spice to their encounter next week with Australian conference leaders the Brumbies when coach Jake White returns to face his old team for the first time.
Sharks: 22 (JP Pietersen try; F Steyn con, 5 pens)
Rebels: 16 (P Leafa try; J Woodward con, 3 pens)