Tough Day in Galway

The Cell C Sharks had to battle extensive travel, tough conditions and a fired up Connacht side before the Irish ran out 24-12 Vodacom United Rugby Championship victors on Saturday evening.

The Cell C Sharks arrived in Ireland off the back of a five match winning streak, but unfortunately their young team, despite the effort, did not deliver the result that would have extended their run of form to six victories.

A howling and swirling wind and later driving rain, played havoc with the ball, both sides having difficulty controlling it, but ultimately Connacht, used to the conditions, were more at home. Also used to the artificial pitch, they used their knowledge to their advantage.

The Cell C Sharks, starved of possession and territory, just couldn’t build the necessary momentum they would have strived for.

Connacht struck first blood although it took 20 minutes for them to finish off, having dominated field position for much of the first quarter. A penalty conceded on defence in the Cell C Sharks 22 gave the Irish the perfect platform to attack from and they made no mistake with the driving maul over the tryline, for a five-nil lead.

A few minutes later Connacht doubled their tally with a well-weighted, perfectly-executed chip and chase in the midfield, gathered up and the second try was scored, the Cell C Sharks finding themselves 12-0 down after 25 minutes.

Finding matters difficult, the Cell C Sharks went three tries down on the stroke of half-time, a promising attack breaking down and Connacht immediately putting themselves on the front foot, sending the ball into the visitors’ 22, earning a penalty before striking to take a 19-0 lead at the break.

Early in the second half the Cell C Sharks showed their true potential as they built up a good head of steam, enjoying their best territorial advantage of the game to force Connacht into their biggest defensive test, conceding a yellow card in the process.

Connacht scored the bonus point try in the 55th minute with a charge down of an attempted clearance kick under pressure and at 24-0 down, it was a big ask for the Cell C Sharks.

However, they responded perfectly with a well-crafted build-up that Rohan Janse van Rensburg powerfully finishing off following a patient attack to score the Cell C Sharks’ first try, with Lionel Cronje converting.

Dian Bleuler struck gold following another patient effort on attack, the forwards imposing with a strong set of pick-and-drives, showing the kind of accuracy needed with short-range efforts before a strong drive saw the replacement prop over for the final score of the game.

The two second half tries, when the Cell C Sharks outscored Connacht 12-5. showed their hunger, intensity and patience.