Durban — Not many people saw this one coming, especially the Sharks as they slithered to a humiliating United Rugby Championship defeat to Cardiff at a drenched Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Sunday evening.
In a sense, it was déjà vu in that the Sharks suffered a shock home defeat to Edinburgh in the last URC in similarly atrocious conditions. Still, at least in that game, they fired a few shots but yesterday they did not score a single point, and nobody can recall when that last happened.
Cardiff came to Durban as the best performing of the four Welsh teams and also with the reputation of having halted the Stormers’ winning streak a few weeks back, and it was with consummate ease that they ended the Sharks’ five-match unbeaten run in Durban.
The other three teams from Wales had lost over the course of the weekend, to the Stormers, Bulls and Lions, but Cardiff brought a ray of light through the gloom over Welsh rugby when they completely outclassed the Sharks and taught them a lesson in wet-weather play.
They started with a bang, with flyhalf Jarrod Evans kicking a penalty after just 90 seconds, but steady drizzle descended at that point and the game slowed into an arm-wrestle.
On 15 minutes the Cardiff captain, Josh Turnbull, was yellow carded for a head-contact tackle on Anthony Volmink and now the drizzle turned into a downpour and these were conditions more to the favour of the visitors.
The game became a kicking contest between the halfback pairings, with Cardiff scrumhalf Lloyd Williams excelling, and when Cardiff waded deep into Sharks territory they won a penalty and Evans made it 6-0 on 20 minutes.
The game erupted into controversy when referee Frank Murphy ruled that Sharks wing Marnus Potgieter had deliberately tapped the ball away from diving Cardiff flank Thomas Young in the Sharks’ in-goal area and awarded a penalty-try, and the double whammy was that Potgieter went to the bin.
Potgieter did seem guilty of the offence, but it is doubtful that a try would have been scored.
That meant Cardiff led 13-0 and in the context of the conditions, that was substantial.
It grew worse for the Sharks on the half-hour mark when Volmink injudiciously tried to run out of trouble in his 22 and gave away a penalty for Evans to goal.
A minute before the break, Young scored a perfectly legitimate try after the unfortunate Volmink made a hash of gathering the ball at the back and at 23-0 at halftime the Sharks were in desperate trouble.
The Sharks brought on Lionel Cronje at flyhalf with Boeta Chamberlain moving to fullback for the struggling Volmink but they were shuffling the chairs on the Titanic and when Young went over on the back of lineout maul for his second try, it was getting embarrassing at 28-0.
But Cardiff were starting to enjoy themselves and fullback Ben Thomas scored his team’s bonus-point try with an easy run in when the defence was caught flat-footed.
Cardiff 35 — Tries: Penalty Try, Thomas Young (2), Ben Thomas. Penalties: Jarrod Evans (3). Conversions: Evans (2)