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Sharks keep their Euro dream alive

MATCH REPORT: The Sharks booked their place in the Challenge Cup’s Round of 16 with a 38-7 bonus-point win over French outfit Oyonnax at Kings Park on Saturday.

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In a scrappy Round Three game, played in the taxing heat and humidity of Durban, the home team outscored the visitors by six tries to one – wing Makazole Mapimpi and prop Ox Nche getting two each.

It was not a perfect performance, but an impressive win over a French team that is yet to win a match in Europe this season.

The win saw the Sharks move to the summit of Pool One, at least for 24 hours, with a match against the Dragons at Rodney Parade in Newport to come next week.

* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!

The early exchanges were scrappy to say the least – a litany of errors on both sides.

Nine minutes into the match Ox Nche finished off a move started by Aphelele Fassi – who produced a counter, kick-and-chase and offloaded to lock Corne Rahl, who in turn popped it up to Nche when he was tackled. Curwin Bosch added the conversion – 7-0.

From the restart Bosch reclaimed a stray ball and sprinted clear. However, Corne Rahl was penalised for a high tackle and the score was denied by the TMO.

The match remained a fragmented affair, with neither team really getting a foothold in the game.

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Nche scored his second just past the 20-minute mark – a series of powerful surges by the Sharks, after a line-out, before Nche, supported by Rahl, burst over on the right wing. Bosch was wide of the mark with his conversion attempt – 12-0.

Just past the half-hour mark Makazole Mapimpi scored the home team’s third try – a quick tap by scrumhalf Grant Williams, the ball moved left where a ruck was set up and Williams kicked ahead for Mapimpi to chase. Bosch added the conversion – 19-0.

The Sharks had a late first-half chance to record the bonus point try, but the attempted maul crumbled in a heap and the home team took a 19-point lead into the half-time break.

Loosehead prop Adrien Bordenave opened the visitors’ account – going over from close range after a series of forward charges. Fullback Justin Bouraux added the conversion to make if 7-19, after 45 minutes.

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Almost immediately Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am benefited from a fortuitous spilled ball to get the home team’s bonus-point try. Bosch was again wide of the mark – making it 24-7.

Oyonnax was reduced to 14 men when scrumhalf Charlie Cassang was sent to the sin bin for a cynical foul on his line.

And the visitors were punished when flank Lappies Labuschagne burst over from close range, even though the TMO had a few looks at it. Bosch was on target with the conversion – 31-7.

On the hour mark Mapimpi got his second try, created by some clever play from scrumhalf Grant Williams – one of several contributions by the World Cup-winning utility back. Bosch added the conversion for a 31-point (38-7) margin.

The French team won several penalties in quick succession, with the Sharks on an official warning for repeated infringements.

Khwezi Mona, after less than a minute on the field, was sent to the sin bin for repeated offside infringements.

That was followed by another scrum penalty, but the Sharks’ defence held firm and eventually forced a turnover.

They held on for an impressive 38-7 win.

Man of the match: Corne Rahl again showed that he is a real prospect, while flank Lappies Labuschagne made the most of a rare start. Captain Lukhanyo Am had one of his best games of the season, even though it was not flawless. World Cup-winning Springbok utility back Grant Williams, playing at scrumhalf for the Sharks, produced several valuable contributions – including setting up tries for his teammates. Our award goes to Sharks and Springbok prop Ox Nche – for some powerful scrumming, seven carries, solid on defence (seven tackles), a couple of turnovers and two tries in what was a great day at the office.

The scorers

For the Sharks
Tries: Nche 2, Mapimpi 2, Am, Labuschagne
Cons: Bosch 4

Oyonnax
Try: Bordenave
Con: Bouraux

Yellow cards: Charlie Cassang (Oyonnax, 52 – cynical foul, hands in the ruck on the line), Khwezi Mona (Sharks, 69 – repeated infringements, offside)

Teams

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Tino Mavesere, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Corne Rahl, 3 Hanro Jacobs, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khwezi Mona, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 James Venter, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Diego Appollis, 23 Eduan Keyter.

Oyonnax: 15 Justin Bouraux, 14 Joe Ravouvou, 13 Leo Treilles, 12 Pedro Bettencourt (captain), 11 Maxime Salles, 10 Jules Soulan, 9 Charlie Cassang, 8 Loic Godener, 7 Hugo Hermet, 6 Filimo Taofifenua, 5 Ewan Johnson, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Thibault Berthaud, 2 Benjamin Geledan, 1 Adrien Bordenave.
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Christopher Vaotoa, 19 Antonin Corso, 20 Ilan El Khattabi, 21 Souleymane Coulibaly, 22 Wandrille Picault, 23 David Odiase.

Referee: Adam Leal (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), John Meredith (England)
TMO: Hamish Smales (England)

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Picture credit: @SharksRugby

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