The Cell C Sharks wore down their brave Scarletts opponents in a truly absorbing Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Friday evening to run out well-deserved 37-20 bonus point winners.
International rugby returned to The Sharks Tank with a bang, two teams representing their countries and doing so with pride, producing a clash of test match proportions which never relented..
This was the real deal and a wonderful example of the kind of rugby this competition wants to produce.
The game was played at a relentless pace from the get go and although the Scarletts were intent on giving the ball lots of air, they had to contend with a Cell C Sharks side who looked full of running.
When the TMO was called on to rule on a possible try from the visitors there were hearts in mouths of the 2000 strong fan base at the park, but the defence had managed to save the day by milliseconds. They did open their account moments later from a breakdown penalty inside the opening 10 minutes.
They struck almost immediately from the first lineout of the game, a well-executed move from first phase, only to be once more denied by the TMO when he spotted a foot on the line in the attempted grounding in the corner.
After the first quarter hour of action and the visitors spending much of that time in the Cell C Sharks half, the inevitable second penalty came from defending the line and the Scarletts doubled their score to six-nil.
Pressure at the kick-off forced the knock-on from the welsh, leading to a dominant scrum, penalty advantage and then the opening three-pointer from the trusty boot of Curwin Bosch.
Bosch equalised with a penalty from in front with the end of the half looming, following a pressure game that had the Scarletts battling to contain the Cell C Sharks.
The physicality was immense and the second half would be an interesting test for the visitors and how they handled the pressure and tempo of the game in the heat.
If the humidity was getting to the visitors, they didn’t show it as they came out in the second half with energy and were rewarded with the opening try of the game in the opening seven minutes, the conversion taking them into a 13-6 lead.
With 25 minutes remaining, Aphelele Fassi, one of the most impressive players on the day, ran onto a carefully grubbered ball through the defence while they were enjoying penalty advantage and the Cell C Sharks fullback lit the afterburners to streak over for his team’s opening try, with Bosch adding the extras to level matters once more.
There was a sense that the Cell C Sharks were starting to dominate, winning the collisions and forcing the mistakes from the home side, with Curwin Bosch scoring the second try following a charge down, and then adding the conversion from out wide to take a 20-13 lead with the final quarter of the game remaining.
With Scarletts losing their initial energetic effort, their scrum started to fail under pressure and their defensive discipline let them down, handing Bosch an easy shot at posts to extend the lead to beyond a converted try with 10 minutes of this pulsating game remaining.
When the forwards drove over from a penalty lineout, the referee had no option but to award a penalty try with the lead extended to 17 points.
The game wasn’t over for Scarletts though as they managed to score from the halfway line off a loose ball with the Cell C Sharks on attack to make it a 10 point game going into the final five minutes.
With the game in extra time, the Cell C Sharks went in pursuit of the bonus point try, with Scarletts finding themselves a man down for repeated infringements on defence.
With the clock registering 85 minutes of play, Marius Louw eventually powered over following an immense effort from the forward pack to get their team into a scoring position.
Tito Bonilla struck gold with his first kick of the game to round off a quite remarkable match, a proud and quite magnificent performance from the Cell C Sharks.