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Sharks devour Force in seven-try romp

By Monthati Molosankwe

DURBAN, South Africa (AFP) - Coastal Sharks scored seven tries as they romped to a 53-11 victory over outclassed Australians Western Force in the Super 15 Saturday.

The bonus-point triumph win after building a 20-6 half-time lead before a modest Kings Park crowd lifted the Durban side into the top six on the southern hemisphere provincial championship standings for the first time this season.

Sharks' five-point haul raised their total to 36 from 11 matches and they climbed above New Zealand rivals Otago Highlanders (35) and Wellington Hurricanes (34) in the race for play-off places.

Apart from the Australian, New Zealand and South African conference winners, who qualify automatically, the teams finishing fourth, fifth and sixth advance to the knockout phase of the annual competition.

It was the second biggest Super 15 victory margin this year, bettered only by the Northern Bulls' 61-8 demolition of defending champions Queensland Reds at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria two months ago.

Left wing Lwazi Mvovo (two), lock Steven Sykes, outside centre Paul Jordaan, full-back Louis Ludik, replacement hooker Craig Burden and flank Jacques Botes scored tries for two-time runners-up Sharks.

Fly-half Patrick Lambie kicked two conversions and two penalties before retiring injured at half-time after colliding with Force outside centre Nick Cummins on the half-hour mark.

Former France Test fly-half and scrum-half Frederic Michalak replaced the young Sharks star and landed four conversions from five attempts in perfect late autumn conditions in the Indian Ocean city.

Fly-half David Harvey slotted two penalties for the Perth-based Force, who were suffering their ninth loss in 11 outings and lie third from bottom of the table, and right wing Samu Wara claimed a last-minute try.

Narrow losers to Central Cheetahs last weekend in their other South African tour match, Force took a sixth-minute lead over the Sharks through a Harvey penalty.

Lambie levelled with a similar score before Sykes barged over under the posts for a converted try and Harvey slotted another penalty on 30 minutes to leave only four points between the teams.

A brilliant break by still-groggy Lambie set up Jordaan for his first Super 15 try and the conversion plus a penalty on the stroke of half-time left the home team 14 points ahead by the break.

Sharks scored their third try less than a minute into the second half with Ludik cutting in to dot down for a try initiated by a break from eighthman and captain Keegan Daniel.

Mvovo, a shock exclusion from the 2011 Springbok Rugby World Cup squad, snatched two intercept tries with his speed giving pursuers no chance before Burden and Botes also went over and Bismarck du Plessis had a try ruled out.

Force were made to sweat before Wara was awarded his consolation try with referee Mark Lawrence referring the score to the television match official amid suspicion that the Australian had a foot in touch before scoring.

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