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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Springboks-laden Sharks toothless in humiliating URC loss to Scarlets

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Durban — The Sharks wanted five log points out of their URC game against the Scarlets but they got none as their all-star line-up spluttered to a 32-20 defeat in West Wales on Saturday night.

To be fair to the forwards, they dominated the second half but the Sharks were utterly toothless on the attack because their backline played woefully behind the advantage line and almost never penetrated the defence.

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Playing so deep might work in Sevens but it is terrible tactics in fifteen and the sooner John Plumtree takes over at the Sharks and has them playing proper rugby the better.

It truly was a humiliating defeat for a Sharks team bursting with big-name Springboks and they had been expected to overwhelm a Scarlets team languishing in 14th position on the log.

The eight-placed Sharks now have a mountain of work ahead of them to qualify for the quarter-finals.

From the outset, the Scarlets carved acres of space out wide and after ten minutes, wing Steff Evans was on the end of an excellent team build-up that stretched the defence to shreds.

And when Sam Costleow nudged over a penalty five minutes later, the Sharks were down 10-0 and stuttering in most departments, including the set scrums and lineouts, which they had been expected to dominate.

They were in trouble when Costelow converted more pressure into points and it was only at the 30-minute mark that the visitors troubled the scorers for the first time, a maul try scored by Siya Kolisi after they had, at last, got a lineout right.

They almost took the lead when Makazole Mapimpi wriggled over the line but it was ruled that he had made a double movement, and the teams went into halftime with the Scarlets leading 13-7.

They stepped their power game up a level and almost immediately won a scrum penalty for Bosch to boot over for the first points of the half.

But against the run of play, Evans nailed his second try in spectacular fashion. The Sharks could not deal with a high ball and Evans used his soccer skills to dribble the ball toward the tryline and score.

The Scarlets added two more penalties and at 26-10 with 25 minutes to go, the Sharks had plenty of work to do.

At this point, Grant Williams was brought on to provide his usual spark and within seconds the Sharks had scored, although it was everything to do with the forwards nailing another maul drive, this time Bongi Mbonambi scoring to make it 26-17.

Bosch then kicked a 50m monster to bring the score difference to six with 15 minutes to go only for Costelow to kick his fifth and sixth penalties and ensure the Sharks had to score two tries in the last eight minutes of the game.

They never came close.

Point-scorers

Sharks 20 — Tries: Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (2).

Scarlets 32 — Tries: Steff Evans (2). Conversions: Sam Costelow (2). Penalties: Costelow (6)

@MikeGreenaway

IOL Sport

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