Sharks suffer fifth straight URC loss as Connacht win in Durban
The Sharks failed to shake of their losing streak in the United Rugby Championship after going down 13-12 to Connacht.
Byron Ralston of Connacht tackles Aphelele Fassi of the Sharks during the United Rugby Championship match in Durban. Picture: Steve Haag Sports/Gallo Images
The Sharks’ woes in the United Rugby Championship (URC) continued after they narrowly lost 13-12 to Irish province Connacht on Saturday at Durban’s Kings Park Stadium.
The loss means the Sharks are winless in five URC matches and remain at the bottom of the table this season, while Connacht continue with their excellent start to the season, winning four of their five games.
John Plumtree’s side were visibly disappointed after the final whistle as they fell short in a must-win game where they were dominant for large periods of it.
Connacht land first blow
As both teams were trying to settle into the game, seizing each other like boxers, they traded the ball among themselves as they looked to stamp their authority in the early stages of the match.
Connacht, the away side, landed the first blow when big No 8 Sean O’Brien dotted down, running over the Sharks defence with his huge frame. Flyhalf JJ Hanrahan kicked the extra two points to give his side a 7-0 lead.
The Sharks kept the ball well, recycling it among the forwards and backs through multiple phases, however, they lacked bite in attack. The Durban outfit had a good spell of possession and territorial dominance, but Connacht were strong in defence, finding red zone exits thanks to handling errors from the Sharks.
The home side kept on probing as they had momentum on their side. They finally made their advantage count after the half-hour mark when Sikhumbuzo Notshe crossed over the white line for five points.
Sensing the Sharks had ascended to dominance, to maintain scoreboard pressure, Connacht’s Hanrahan kicked for the posts when awarded a penalty for three points to extend their lead to 10-5. The score would remain the same until the half-time break.
Sharks on top
The Sharks were on top in every aspect of the game but needed to be composed and play with intent in the second half. They started the second period like a house on fire, putting Connacht under pressure, playing the opening minutes of the half in the 5m line.
Connacht kept on making multiple infringements due to pressure and were punished when Oisin Dowling was sent to the sin bin.
Sharks’ Werner Kok immediately scored a converted try after Lukhanyo Am and Aphelele Fassi kept the ball alive with their soccer skills until it made way for him on the wing to give his side a 12-10 advantage.
Connacht opted to play on the offence instead of being pragmatic to help mitigate their numerical disadvantage.
Fortunately, the visitors survived their time with 14 men without any big damage. The Sharks needed another try, and Connacht were searching for a penalty. Stars aligned for the Irish side as they were given a penalty and Hanrahan kicked the three points to give his side a slender 13-12 lead.
The Sharks still smelt blood as Connacht were fatigued, and they had the opportunity to go in front in the 73rd minute, but Boeta Chamberlain missed the penalty. Connacht managed to hold off efforts from the Sharks to secure the 13-12 win.
Sharks: Tries – Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Werner Kok; Conversions Curwin Bosch
Connacht: Tries – Sean O’Brien; Conversions JJ Hanrahan; Penalty – Hanrahan (2)