Maximum Effort, Maximum Reward

The Hollywoodbets Sharks struck a blow in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign with a quite sublime 69-14 bonus point victory over Dragons RFC at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday evening.

The Welsh had no answer to the Springbok infused Hollywoodbets Sharks’ power and attack game and the way the Durban side went about dismantling their opponents thrilled the sizable home crowd who cheered and roared their side on to an emphatic victory.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks made it three from three against the Dragons over the past three seasons, after winning 51-3 in the first season and running out 20-19 victors in Wales in the 2022/23 campaign.

On a night when all the puzzle pieces fell into place, there was little consolation for the game Dragons who, as the game progressed, simply had no answer to the relentless power and speed from the home team.

It was thanks to the powerhouse Hollywoodbets Sharks scrum that the first points of the game were scored in the opening 10 minutes of a testing early period, as they smashed their opponents on their own ball put-in and Curwin Bosch made no mistake from the kicking tee.

Dragons had barely caught their collective breath and they were on the defence again, this time there was no stopping the inevitable after James Venter burst his way through two tacklers, got within metres of the tryline before the ball was quickly recycled out wide to Aphelele Fassi who had space and speed to secure the five-pointer, with Bosch adding the extras for a 10-nil lead just shy of the quarter hour.

With their tails well and truly up, the confidence was brimming and Dragons were reduced to a secondary role in the outcome of the game, defending for their lives but simply unable to stem the floodgates, with Man of the Match Makazole Mapimpi scoring in the corner after a sustained attack featuring every one of the Hollywoodbets Sharks players.

There was a calmness that hasn’t been present, an understanding of roles and how to control the game and their 15-nil lead after a quarter of the game was testament to the self-belief and the belief in their crusade.

Just before the half hour, the Welsh visitors struck, finding a gap out wide and scoring their first points of the game to reduce the deficit to eight points.

The Dragons were having a torrid time at the scrums and eventually lost a man to the yellow card for repeated indiscretions at the set-piece. As the game wound down towards half-time, there was one last opportunity to pull further ahead.

A penalty was kicked to touch and from the ensuing attack, the ball was kept in-field under pressure, Werner Kok juggled the ball before touching down, the TMO was asked to refer and after a complete check-up, was happy with the build-up and the try stood for a 20-7 lead at the break.

Seven minutes into the second half, Eben Etzebeth galloped his way over for the bonus point try after Mapimpi had taken a quick tap penalty, the Dragons’ defence in disarray after conceding the turnover in possession.

Bosch converted for a 20 point lead and the result was well and truly wrapped up with half an hour remaining.

A handful of minutes later, Grant Williams sped in for try number five, one Springbok scrumhalf replacing another, after Rohan Janse van Rensburg had powered his way through numerous defenders before feeding Werner Kok and then Williams, with Bosch adding the extras.

The try was cancelled out directly from the kick-off to retore the 20 point difference, but Phepsi Buthelezi struck gold following an intense and ultimately productive effort that yielded try number six a few minutes later with Bosch making no mistake from out wide.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks threatened the half century when Lappies Labuschagne ran in for try number seven after Grant Williams sensed the smallest of gaps and used his pace to break through to set up the replacement lock, with Bosch converting from right in front.

With 10 minutes of the pulsating game remaining, the Dragons players were clearly feeling the effects of playing such a high tempo game and were out on their feet as they battled to come to terms with the pace of play the Hollywoodbets Sharks had brought to the match.

Indeed the next try was a real ‘gimme’ after Grant Williams snapped up a runaway intercept after the visitors’ ball was being funnelled from one player to the next without making any inroads. Boeta Chamberlain completed the seven-pointer and the Hollywoodbets Sharks had hit fifty points.

Aphelele Fassi scored a try that he had a big part in starting after the Dragons had kicked the ball upfield but failed to chase and the big fullback made the initial charge before scoring his second on the night, with Chamberlain adding the conversion as the Hollywoodbets Sharks took a 62-14 lead with a handful of minutes left on the clock.

The final try came straight off the training pitch, executed with precision as captain Lukhanyo Am ran the perfect line to score the tenth try of the match, Chamberlain making no mistake to close out a quite comprehensive victory.