Durban — The Sharks made desperately heavy weather of it but their unflinching determination eventually saw them snatch a 20-19 URC win over the Dragons at Rodney Parade in Newport.
It was by no means pretty but four important log points on the road were banked and next week the Sharks conclude their tour with a big ask against Leinster in Dublin, so this win and last week’s against Zebre are all the more valuable.
But for most of this match, the sloppy Sharks were their own worst enemies and they almost conspired to lose to a very average Dragons team that did little all night other than profit from their opposition’s errors.
All game, there was the feeling that the Sharks were about to click into top gear and obliterate the Welshmen only for the Durbanites to undermine their own endeavours.
Lineouts were lost; there was a torrent of penalties against them, and the Sharks were too often turned over at the breakdown.
Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 8th minute with a penalty goal only for his opposite number, Will Reed, to equalise two minutes later and add another soon after.
The penalties against the Sharks kept coming and that meant the Sharks could not get out of their half which was a pity because when they did get decent possession and moved the ball, they looked very dangerous, with centres Ben Tapuai and Rohan Janse van Rensburg punching holes in the defence each time they got the ball.
Reed kicked his third penalty on the half-hour mark and Chamberlain pulled back three points with his second penalty just before half time only for Reed to nail his fourth as the hooter sounded for a 12-6 half-time lead.
It was more of the same from the stuttering Sharks as the second half started when possession gifted to the home team saw hooker Elliot Dee drive over, and at 19-6, the Sharks urgently needed to snap out of their clumsiness.
Too often, when the Sharks’ ball carriers surged forward, the ball would be turned over at the ensuing breakdown. And there was strong carrying, especially by the tireless Dylan Richardson, but good work kept getting undone.
As the game hit the three-quarter mark, it was Grant Williams who sparked a comeback — as he has so often done — when he intercepted and scampered 40m to the posts, and then with five minutes to go, Sihumbuzo Notshe burst through a tackle to unleash Thaakir Abrahams who finished superbly, and Chamberlain’s conversion nudged the Sharks into what would be a winning lead
Sharks 20 — Tries: Grant Williams, Thaakir Abrahams. Penalties: Boeta Chamberlain (3). Conversions: Chamberlain (2).
Dragons 19 — Try: Elliot Dee. Penalties: Will Reed (4). Conversions: Reed.