The Cell C Sharks kicked off their Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign against a rampant Munster side on Saturday evening, finding the going tough in a 42-17 loss to the Irish side.
It was a difficult first match up on tour and Munster proved worthy opposition to a Cell C Sharks side who had only two weeks previously contested the Carling Currie Cup Final. They were brave, committed and fought to the end.
Munster scored first having been forced to defend for almost the entire period of play at that time, a loose ball snatched up and the Cell C Sharks could not transition from attack to defence to prevent a sixth minute try.
With barely a sniff of possession, Munster were forced into defensive mode but showed true character by stopping any momentum the Cell C Sharks looked to build. They attacked with intensity in playing a high tempo game but simply couldn’t breach the Irish defensive wall.
When Munster managed to get their hands on the ball, they looked dangerous on attack and after initially being repelled, they eventually worked their way back into the 22 before earning a penalty with Thomas du Toit carded and Munster adding another three points to their tally.
A wonderful captain’s effort from the athletic eighthman saw Phepsi Buthelezi make 20m into Munster’s half before the defence conceded a penalty in front and Curwin Bosch made no mistake with eight minutes of the half remaining.
With five minutes to go until half-time, Munster scored their second try after a solid scrum close to the tryline, the scrumhalf finding a gap on the blindside and diving over, the conversion from out wide too short but the lead extended to 10 points.
Munster proved relentless in pursuit of a third try, extending the first half by nearly four minutes of extra play before getting the ball over the line, the conversion giving the home side a 20-3 lead at half time.
Both sides enjoyed some enterprising play on attack in the early stages of the second half, Thaakir Abrahams making a wonderful break before Munster had a counter. But it was the home side who managed to capitalise, driving over to extend their lead to 24 points with just under half an hour remaining.
No three minutes later with Munster on attack, a long pass was beautifully read by flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain who snatched the intercept and ran downfield to score his team’s first try, converted by Bosch to reduce the margin to 17 points.
Buoyed by their success, the visiting Durbanites started to inject real venom into their attack, but continued to find the defence impenetrable, with Munster scoring next with a long range penalty.
But the disappointment was short-lived, a super build-up, penalty advantage and then sending the ball wide to Yaw Penxe who showed his blistering pace down the touchline before cutting inside the last defender to score his team’s second try, the conversion cutting the lead to 30-17 with just under 10 minutes of the game remaining.
With the game running towards its conclusion, Muster were relentless as they hammered away at the Cell C Sharks line taking the ball through umpteen phases before finally closing out a converted try.
A minute later they scored another try, to close out a good effort on the day and a delivering a tough lesson for the Cell C Sharks to take out of this opening match of a brand new competition.
Munster were very good and should be praised for their efforts. It was nonetheless a brave performance from a committed Cell C Sharks side who will take much out of this match.