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Super Rugby: Sharks move five clear with 22-16 win at Melbourne Rebels
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Sharks became the first South African team to win on Australian soil this season as they recorded a 22-16 victory over the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park.
The Super Rugby leaders moved five points clear at the head of the table with their eighth win in 10 games.
In a try-less first period Francois Steyn, who produced a peerless kicking display, got the better of Jason Woodward in a kicking exchanges as the Sharks took a 15-6 lead into the break.
Jake White's Sharks asserted their authority on the tie when JP Pietersen raced home their only try of the match but the Rebels were reluctant to accept defeat.
Pat Leafa crossed the whitewash and Woodward converted to bring the hosts within six, but they were unable to do anymore damage to the Sharks' lead as their spirited revival fell short.
The league leaders made a brisk start in Melbourne and could have scored in the opening minute as Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo chased a chip-and-run to the line.
Rebels fly-half Bryce Hegarty won the foot race and tapped the ball out reach for the Sharks and although referee Andrew Lees and TMO Peter Marshall considered awarding the penalty try, the hosts got off lightly with just a penalty and no card.
It appeared the decision was only to delay the inevitable but after spiritedly defending their lines, it was the Rebels who opened the scoring.
After drawing a penalty from the Sharks defence, Woodward slotted home the first kick of the night, only for Steyn to restore parity moments later.
Rebels full-back Woodward and Sharks fly-half Steyn exchanged penalties once more the visitors attempted to seize the initiative before the break.
Tony McGahan's Rebels continued to falter as the Sharks showed signs of rhythm and three kickable penalties in the closing 10 minutes of the first half allowed Steyn to build a 15-6 half time lead.
In a dogged start to the second period, both sides threatened to break before Woodward reduced the Rebels' arrears to six with his third successful penalty of the night.
The first try of the match came on 64 minutes as the Sharks transformed a positive Rebels move into a scoring opportunity of their own.
Lock Stephan Lewies claimed the interception 75 metres out and the Sharks worked from right to left before Mvovo stormed into Rebels territory.
The Sharks full-back offered a neat offload to winger Pietersen, who raced home his 34th Super Rugby try, which Steyn duly converted.
Rebels refused to relent and piled the pressure on the Sharks defence, earning consecutive penalties inside their five-metre line.
With the Sharks napping on their own try line, the Rebels took the opportunity for a quick tap-penalty and found replacement hooker Leafa, who charged over in the left corner.
The Rebels continued to put pressure on the Sharks defence, but their hopes of sneaking the win were shot when they conceded a penalty for not releasing.
Victory means the Sharks' advantage over the Brumbies at the Super Rugby summit now stands at five points, a gap that could be closed on Saturday with the Canberra franchise in Christchurch to take on the Crusaders.Super 15. Click here to bet.