Sharks lose fifth URC game in a row
MATCH REPORT: So near yet so far as the Sharks slumped to their fifth loss in the United Rugby Championship which saw them lose their first home game against Connacht by 12-13 in Durban on Saturday.
But the ‘W’ still eludes John Plumtrees’ men in their current campaign.
The Sharks lost their first line-out in the first minute of the game and this was the hymn sheet they would sing to for the rest of the match.
But after this blunder the Sharks managed to build some continuity, the ball changing hands, one of them that of returning World Cup winner Lukhanyo Am.
Connacht however quickly changed their defence into attack and in the seventh minute they opened their scoring through a try by Sean O’Brien, using their forwards to ruck and maul ever closer to the Sharks’ try-line.
The Sharks backed themselves to go for a try, opting to kick for touch with the first penalty awarded to them.
Then James Venter couldn’t collect a pass from a metre out from the whitewash leaving the desperate home side to keep on fighting for their first points.
Even on the front foot, mistakes were still the Achilles heel for the Sharks, small errors undoing their good work.
With 20 minutes gone, the Sharks were still desperately trying to string together phases without making any unnecessary mistakes. During this stanza Werner Kok was prominent, at one stage racing down the opposite line but he should’ve let the ball go to the man on his outside.
Connacht was dominating the set-phases with strong scrum work while they managed to disrupt the Sharks’ line-outs.
And finally the Sharks’ hard work paid off after a tap metres from the Connact try-line sent Sikhumbuzo Notshe over for their first points of the game in the 31st minute of the first half. Unfortunately Curwin Bosch could not convert after running out of time with his conversion kick.
A penalty kick by JJ Hanrahan stretched Connachts’ lead to 10-5.
The Sharks were unable to use their line-outs as a launch pad to attack and this was a huge drawback for them.
Despite a strong surge by the home team late in the second half, they could not hold onto the ball and Connacht hoofed the ball out for the end of the first half.
A summary of the first half indicated that Connacht only missed one tackle while the Sharks missed 13.
The second half saw the Sharks dominate proceedings in the Connacht 22 while the visitors were reprimanded for repeated cynical play handing the Sharks penalties to play from. This saw Oisín Dowling sent to the sin-bin for repeated infringements.
Finally Kok stepped his way across the try-line after Am tried to kick in midfield, it came off his knees but Aphelele Fassi controlled the ball and got it out to Kok, sending the Sharks into the lead for the first time by 12-10.
This was the catalyst the Sharks needed and it was clear their fins were up, playing with much more confidence.
With 20 minutes to go, Bosch found himself in no-mans’ land, opting to go outside instead of back to his support. He held onto the ball and handed Connacht a shot at goal to take the lead once more.
It was not an easy kick, but the experienced Hanrahan landed the penalty goal to take the Irish into the lead again by 13-12.
A last gasp effort by the Sharks offered them a penalty but Boeta Chamberlain missed a fairly easy kick which could have taken them into the lead yet again.
Connacht reverted to a rush defence in the last ten minutes and stepped up their urgency, smelling victory.
Winning a penalty scrum in the dying seconds, the Irish walked away victors.
In the end the team that was more accurate in their execution and in the set-phases came out on top.
Man of the Match: Our pick goes to JJ Hanrahan for his accurate kicking record but also playing the perfect general for his side.
Tries: Notshe, Kok
Pens: Hanrahan 2
Yellow cards: Oisín Dowling (Connacht – 47’ repeated infringement)
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Francois Venter (captain), 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phendulani Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Emile van Heerden, 4 Corne’ Rahl, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Daniel Jooste, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Jeandre Labuschagne, 20 Tino Mavesere, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Andrew Smith, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Colm Reilly, 8 Sean O’Brien, 7 Conor Oliver (captain), 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Oisín Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tadgh McElroy, 1 Denis Buckle.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Darragh Murray, 20 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 John Porch.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Morné Ferreira (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)