The Sharks beat Benetton Treviso comfortably enough, 24-7, in their United Rugby Championship match at the Stadio Monigo on Saturday night, but it was a no-holds-barred performance and they only managed to secure the bonus point in the 79.e minute after scoring three tries in the first half.
A timid, careless second half
After leading 21-0 at half time and 60% possession and territory, the Sharks continued to defend for much of the second half. Benetton admittedly increased their intensity in their second half and travel fatigue may have been a factor for the Sharks.
But the Springbok-laden visitors lacked direction and fluency in the second half, flyhalf Curwin Bosch not really fulfilling his role as general.
Am & Fassi’s Attacking Genius
Despite dominating territory and possession in the first half, The Sharks battled to take down a well-organized Benetton team. It was the magic of outdoor center Lukhanyo Am and fullback Aphelele Fassi that got them the key cuts.
A superb run by Am that saw him smash through a maze of defenders ended with midfield partner Marius Louw stopping just before the line. But from a scrum of five meters, Ruben van Heerden then scored.
The Sharks’ second attempt, in the 26e minute, came down the left sideline thanks to Fassi showing excellent feet when he didn’t have much room to work with.
The Sharks’ bonus point attempt, with only a minute left in the game, was delivered again by Am with his long pass wide to Sbu Nkosi who found the powerful wing outside his man.
More arbitration bad luck
South Africans tend to blame referees for most things that go wrong on a rugby pitch. But our complaints about inconsistent service certainly seem justified given the series of mind-boggling decisions being made in Europe.
While umpire Andrew Brace was generally excellent, he denied the Sharks what turned out to be a crucial try in the third quarter, ruling there was a separation between the hand and the ball when prop Ox Nche hit the ground after big attacks by him and fellow first-rower Thomas du toit. Replay after replay failed to show what the referee had seemingly seen and persuaded his TMO to accept it.
It was a decision that changed the momentum as Benetton turned up the pressure, giving Am a yellow card and the home side’s only try, scored by lock Carl Wegner from close range.
Thanks to Benetton
The Italians have lost most of their game to their national team and have had several youth players and even some from other clubs on their feet. Their scrum was hit particularly hard, but delivered a daring performance, conceding only a few penalties. Against such a star-studded team, their hearts were definitely in the game and Benetton Treviso deserves credit for keeping the Sharks looking ordinary for a long time.
Benetton Treviso† Attempt – Carl Wegener. Conversion —Tomas Albornoz.
sharks† tries – Ruben van Heerden, Aphelele Fassi, Phepsi Buthelezi, Sbu Nkosi. conversions – Curwin Bosch (3). Punishment – Bosch.