To a man, the Cell C Sharks gave Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira a fitting tribute in his 157th, record-breaking Vodacom Super Rugby appearance as they ran out convincing 42-5 victors over the Lions on Friday evening.
The bonus point win elevated the Cell C Sharks to the top of the South African Conference thanks to a wonderful team effort that simply blew the Lions away and our dominance in every facet of the game underlined the team’s ability and determination.
A wonderfully inventive and exciting start saw us pressuring the Lions’ defence early on with Curwin Bosch showing his attacking prowess with a scything run through the defence that nearly gained the perfect reward.
For 10 minutes the Lions were under the pump and a series of penalties eventually resulted in a yellow card for repeated infringements.
The Lions managed to stave off wave after wave of attack from the Cell C Sharks, but their defence – under pressure and with a minute left of the card still remaining – eventually had to break and Jacques Vermeulen found himself on the wing. He muscled his way through two players to score the opening try, well-deserved for the team’s wonderful efforts.
The Cell C Sharks doubled the score less than five minutes later when Makazole Mapimpi finished off a spectacular break from Curwin Bosch who was revelling in the opportunity and the space he was finding, this time from his 22 as he made a good 40m through the midfield.
The game went from the surreal to the sublime as quick hands saw Lukhanyo Am in space between two front rowers and he had the easiest of run-ins as he cantered through the 22 to the tryline. With Robert du Preez converting, the Cell C Sharks held an impressive 17-nil lead in less than half an hour’s play.
The Lions’ discipline continued to let them down as they conceded another penalty, this time in front and du Preez made no mistake to push the lead to 20 unanswered points.
With under three minutes of the half remaining, the fourth try came following a sustained build-up that showed great accuracy despite the strong rain that was falling, Mapimpi scoring his second thanks to some wonderful interplay between forwards and backs.
The Lions had a chance to get points on the board as the half-time break beckoned but they lost the ball on attack and we were able to clear, taking a well-deserved 25-0 lead into the changeover.
With close on 80% possession and territory, not only had we dominated on the field, but also closed out opportunities which had been a key focus going into the game. The Lions had missed a massive 26 tackles and that was a telling stat.
Although the Lions appeared composed in the second half despite their woes, they conceded the first points of the half when Curwin Bosch slotted a 55m penalty underlying his value to the team.
With the game much tighter in the second half, only the Cell C Sharks had managed to score but when we didn’t, it was all about territorial pressure and the Lions simply could not get out of their half.
The pressure simply never let off and Thomas du Toit finally managed to close out what had been promised for some time when he smashed over following a good period of dominance as the Lions appeared well and truly beaten.
When Curwin Bosch converted, we held a 35-0 lead in what must go down as the most sublime Cell C Sharks performance in some time. For the Lions, a most forgettable night, perhaps in some years for the country’s most recently successful team.
It took the Lions 78 minutes before they finally broke the deadlock with a try out wide but by then their spirit was well and truly broken.
Any smiles they had were wiped out with a final try, scored by Aphelele Fassi after Curwin Bosch had bravely drawn the defence to provide the space out wide. Bosch converted and the Cell C Sharks had well and truly made a statement.