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Ken Borland

Sharks win in the end … after letting the air out of their own tyres

Posted on December 05, 2022 by Ken

The Sharks found themselves on the winning side in the end, by the narrowest of margins, but for the vast majority of their United Rugby Championship match against the Dragons in Newport, they huffed and puffed, generally without accuracy, before a handling error or turnover would let the air out of their tyres.

The Sharks snuck home 20-19 thanks to a 75th-minute try by wing Thaakir Abrahams, who was sent to the line by replacement back Marnus Potgieter, after substitute flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe had broken the line to create the space. Flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain then slotted an excellent conversion to give the visitors the lead for the first time since the 11th minute.

Apart from their tendency to lose possession on attack, the Sharks were also not helped by a wayward lineout and the fact that the Dragons beat them in the kicking game. They were also outworked at the breakdown, although unlucky at times that referee Ben Blain did not seem to enjoy their efforts there, or in the scrums, where they won a few penalties but were also on the wrong side of a couple of momentum-breaking decisions.

The first scrum allowed the Sharks to land the first blow with a Chamberlain penalty, but their problems at the ruck, lineout and then, in the second quarter, at scrum time, began to hurt them as Dragons flyhalf Will Reed kicked four penalties.

Chamberlain was able to kick one more scrum penalty, but the Sharks would have been relieved that they went into the break 12-6 down, the Dragons opting for their fourth penalty after the hooter instead of pushing for the try that would have made that lead even more formidable.

But the Dragons went 19-6 up early in the second half when hooker Elliot Dee scored from a rolling maul, the Sharks having been deep on attack inside the 22 after a Rohan Janse van Rensburg charge was wasted by a pass going astray.

It’s a long way back from there away from home at an intimate, boisterous venue like Rodney Parade, but it’s to the Sharks’ credit that they did not panic and kept soldiering on.

An intercept try by scrumhalf Grant Williams was a massive blow for the Dragons, but the Sharks, on the ropes for so long, finally landed a knockout blow with just five minutes remaining, thanks to the strike-running of Notshe and sheer pace of Abrahams.

It’s surprising that the Sharks were so outplayed at ruck time given that their loose trio contained two flanks who play to the ball in James Venter and Dylan Richardson. Then again, Notshe is in the same mould as eighthman Phepsi Buthelezi, one of their few successes on a difficult evening.

It’s becoming apparent that the big-spending Sharks need less flash and more players willing to put in the big hits and do the dirty work around the rucks.


Dragons: Try – Elliot Dee. Conversion – Will Reed. Penalties – Reed (4).

Sharks: Tries – Grant Williams, Thaakir Abrahams. Conversions – Boeta Chamberlain (2). Penalties – Chamberlain (2).

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