Mission Accomplished in Treviso

A first-ever meeting between the Cell C Sharks and Benetton Rugby ended in a 29-7 bonus point Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory for the Durban side in Treviso on Saturday. 

The first half was all about building a platform and the Cell C Sharks did just that with three good tries, although Benetton did come back well in the second half. Ultimately, it was mission accomplished with five log points gained from of an away game. 

It was a game of inches as Marius Louw was denied the opening try when he was pulled up just short of the tryline in the first real scoring opportunity for either side. But in the ensuing scrum, the forwards were just too strong for the home side who did their best to contain the relentless pick-and-drive efforts, before Ruben van Heerden managed to power over, with Curwin Bosch making it a seven pointer inside the opening 10 minutes. 

Aphelele Fassi, who was impressive throughout, crossed for the second try on the 25th minute after the Cell C Sharks dominated much of the possession and territorial stakes in the 15 minutes between the two scores, with Benetton fighting for their lives and at times exerting pressure of their own but never able to close out. 

There was a sense that the Cell C Sharks were in control and biding their time against the more inexperienced Italian side, managing the game and forcing mistakes from the hosts. 

Playing a high tempo game often had the Benetton defence in trouble and with time almost up for half-time, the home side lost a player to the sin bin for repeated disciplinary infractions and an accumulation of penalties which presented the Cell C Sharks with a gilt-edged opportunity to score a third try. 

The forwards, impressive throughout, produced the goods with a strong driving maul, Phepsi Buthelezi finishing off the move with his front row team-mates adding the extra impetus behind him. Bosch converted for a 21-nil lead at the break. 

After a slow opening 10 minutes of the second half, Thomas du Toit and Ox Nche combined beautifully close to the tryline after Man of the Match Fassi had made excellent yardage with an outstanding take of the high ball and then penetration through the midfield, only for the TMO to adjudge a knock-on in the process of trying to ground the ball in-goal. 

The close-call had the opposite effect of the desired outcome, with Benetton sensing that their bravery on defence might change the tempo of the game. Five minutes later they had their first try, building momentum as they chipped away at the defence before finally opening their account on the scoreboard. 

Bosch succeeded with a long range penalty when the game went into the final 10 minutes to extend the lead to 24-7 to put the result out of question. 

With a minute left, the Cell C Sharks left the best for last, building momentum and maintaining composure on attack as the ball went down the touchline then sent across the field through numerous hands before Sbu Nkosi was fed the ball and he was too quick and elusive for the defence as he scored the bonus point try in the corner. 

The Cell C Sharks have now climbed into the top 8 with games in hand over the teams above them in the competition.