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Honours even in Headingley thriller

20 Sep 2002
Honours even in Headingley thriller

The former Springbok struck the three-pointer some four minutes into injury-time with the Tykes behind by 29-26 after Charlie Hodgson had seemingly snatched a Sharks’ victory with a well-taken drop-goal in the 81st minute.

It was a high quality affair from start to finish with both sides playing some breathtaking rugby and the Sharks making a remarkable turnaround in the final quarter as they scored two converted tries in the last ten minutes to come within a whisker of taking the match.

The visitors had started the stronger side, Hodgson opening the scoring with a penalty goal in the ninth minute after some early pressure.

But four minutes later the Tykes struck back through back rower Cameron Mather who crashed over for a powerful try following a typically flowing passage of play from his team. It was a particularly welcome score for the player who earlier this week was left out of Scotland’s World Cup training squad by coach Ian McGeechan.

With the try converted by Van Straaten, that made it 7-3 to Leeds and there followed a period of relative stalemate as enterprise was thwarted by some robust defence from both sets of players.

The Sharks came back to within a point of Leeds through Hodgson’s second penalty in the 20th minute and then took the lead once more some ten minutes later when the fly-half was again on target.

But then, just before the break, Leeds seized the initiative once more, Chris Murphy charging over for a try and Van Straaten predictably adding the extras.

With Hodgson landing a late penalty, the half-time score saw Leeds ahead by 17-12.

Following the break, the Leeds forwards went into overdrive, dominating in both territory and possession to allow Van Straaten to add three more penalties at regular intervals as the Tykes looked to be cruising home for their fourth successive Premiership victory this season.

But Jim Mallinder’s Sharks team had other ideas and, following the sin-binning of Tykes’ three-quarter Diego Albanese, launched a remarkable fightback in the last period, the backline breaking through the Leeds’ defence on a number occasions before wing Mark Cueto went over for a try in the 71st minute.

Hodgson converted to put the Sharks within a converted try of their opponents and that set up an exciting finale to the match.

Six minutes later, Steve Hanley scored the Sharks’ second try of the night and with Hodgson on target, the match was all-square.

Then came the dramatic injury-time contributions from the two marksman Hodgson and Van Straaten to conclude a highly satisfactory evening’s entertainment.

The scorers:

For Leeds TykesTries: Cameron Mather, Chris MurphyCons: Braam van Straaten (2)Pens: Braam van Straaten (5)

For the SharksTries: Mark Cueto, Steve HanleyCons: Charlie Hodgson (2)Pens: Charlie Hodgson (4) Drop-goal: Charlie Hodgson

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