Cell C Sharks 40
Glasgow Warriors 12
SPRINGBOK enriched Sharks put Glasgow to the sword extending an impressive home run and consigning Glasgow to another crushing away defeat. Power and pressure were the key tenets in a clinical performance that overran a struggling Glasgow outfit.
Warriors lost Matt Fagerson and Sebastian Cancelliere pre match to illness so Ryan Wilson moved up from the bench to start at No 8 and debutant Sione Vailanu joining the replacements, while in-form Cole Forbes came in from outside the matchday 23 to start on the wing.
The match started in cagey fashion, a Glasgow side struggling on the road facing a Sharks side who have not lost in Durban since the visit of Mike Blair’s Edinburgh side in 2021. Kicks were traded early, inviting the returning Ollie Smith to soar through the air to take a fantastic early ball from the grasp of springbok Aphelele Fassi.
Handling errors punctuated periods of excellent play from both sides with Springbok centurion Eben Etzebeth wasting no time in rampaging onto the ball with some massive carries. Sharks took the lead through an 11th minute Boeta Chamberlain penalty, but Warriors struck back immediately when the acrobatic Smith took another excellent take from a Jaden Hendrikse box kick. The ball was recycled and spun wide through several positive Glasgow phases.
Sam Johnson straightened the line with a nice show-and-go to bring Glasgow onto the front foot. The arriving Tom Gordon saw the seas part in front of him picking from the base darting through untouched before throwing a step worthy of a winger to beat Fassi and fly in under the posts for a try duly converted by Tom Jordan.
Glasgow kept the pressure on the Durban men with two careless Sharks penalties at the breakdown giving them another entry to the home side’s 22, however the visitors succumbed to the pressure of Etzebeth, who has a habit of stealing line-out ball at a crucial times, and this theme continued throughout the match.
Sharks then built off the back of a good line-out ball to put Glasgow under pressure before drawing a penalty at ruck time, allowing Chamberlain to knock over a penalty to bring the score back to 7-6.
Chamberlain then added another classy touch from the back of a smart wrap around move that allowed him to slide through the gap between the Glasgow centres, before spinning wide to Anthony Volmink. who scampered over to give his side a six-pointe lead going into half time.
Glasgow started the second half brightly winning two early penalties to enter the Sharks redzone. A fantastic maul off the back of Ryan Wilson towering line-out take rumbled over at speed with Gordon capitalising to score his brace. This early Glasgow pressure was almost rewarded again with Smith dancing away from two Sharks tackles and bursting into the Sharks’ half however the Glasgow support could not consolidate possession.
On the 50-minute mark Sharks began to empty their star-studded bench, and the screw really began to turn. The killer instinct of Jacques Nienaber’s Boks was all over this second half performance and this was clear to see in the next passage of play.
Glasgow punished for obstructing the kick-chase gave the Sharks another chance, bruising carries from the Sharks pack allowed the newly introduced Ox Nche to whip to his fly-half, who spun wide to Fassi, who engineered a skilful offload to send Volmink down the touch-line for their second score.
From then on, the Sharks pressure cooker was ramped up, with Chamberlain keeping the scoreboard ticking over, capitalising on repeated Glasgow infringements with another successful penalty shot at goal. Glasgow’s play during this period was characterised by aimless kicking and a real sense that their attack was being blunted at source.
Too often were the visitors caught out in key situations with the most notable being when one cap Scotland international Dylan Richardson pounced on weak Glasgow support to win a Sharks penalty deep in Glasgow territory. Chamberlain went to the corner and the clinical Springbok laden pack made no mistake, with Bongi Mbonambi the beneficiary of a dominant Shark maul.
The crushing impact of the Sharks bench was demonstrated again when Nche and co rolled the Glasgow scrum back, turning the ball over against the head to put Glasgow under massive pressure inside their own 22. From the poor Glasgow clearing kick the Sharks come forward again and after two physical phases the brilliance of Hendrikse and Fassi was on show again with the former chipping over the top for his towering full-back to gather athletically and gallop in untouched. Glasgow were in full retreat.
The Glasgow team never gave up but could not make inroads against the wall of pressure. Exemplary effort was shown by Josh McKay making a key cover tackle tracking back to disrupt a sure try engineered by Kolisi, Fassi and the ever-present Chamberlain. However, with the team struggling with injuries to Richie Gray, Fraser Brown and Jordan, the Sharks showed their clinical prowess.
With the clock in the red they continued their relentless assault, marching up the field off the back of repeated Glasgow penalties before they finally put the game firmly to bed with Chamberlain placing an inch perfect kick for Werner Kok to meet in stride and canter in for a crushing Sharks victory.
“We’re probably more disappointed with the first half than the second half because we had a plan to move them around and I think that only came to light in the 39th minute when we started to ask questions,” said Warriors stand-in head coach Nigel Carolan.
“I thought we kicked too much in that first half when we wanted to ask questions of them with ball in hand,” he added. “We knew that there was going to be onslaught when the Sharks emptied their bench of all those internationals, and we didn’t have a cushion which we could protect.”
“But I definitely think it was a step in the right direction in terms of that away form everyone is talking about. I thought the mind-set was right, I thought the energy was right, but I just thought the way we managed the game tactically in the first half was just a little bit off because we went away from the strategy.
“The last 30 minutes might look like a capitulation but that’s going to come on the back of having so much of the game and not getting scores in the bank. Then we started losing players to injury and shifting guys around, and it is really hard to keep any momentum against a top-class team like the Sharks in that situation.
Warriors will find no respite next week away at the Lions, who beat their Scottish counterparts Edinburgh last weekend, but will look to build off the positives from the first half.
Cell C Sharks: A Fassi; W Kok, M Potgeiter, V Tapuai, A Volmink (M Mapimpi 60); B Chamberlain, J Hendrikse (C Wright 75); N Mchunu (O Nche 50), K van Vuuren (B Mbonambi 50), T du Toit (C Sadie 50), E Etzebeth, H Andrews (R Hugo 59), D Richardson (S Notshe 70), V Tshituka (K Kolisi 50), P Buthelezi.
Glasgow Warriors: O Smith; C Forbes, S Tuipulotu (captain), S Johnson, J McKay; T Jordan (A Price 72), A Price (G Horne 59, R Thompson 70); J Bhatti (O Kebble 59), G Turner (F Brown 34-71), Z Fagerson (M Walker 69), S Manjezi (G Brown 55), R Gray (JP du Preez 45), S Cummings, T Gordon (S Vailanu 62), R Wilson.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Gordon 2; Cons: Jordan; Pens:
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Volmink 2, Mbonambi, Fassi, Kok; Cons: Chamberlain 3; Pens: Chamberlain 3;
Scoring sequence (Sharks first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 6-7; 11-7; 13-7 (h-t) 13-12; 18-12; 21-12; 26-12; 28-12; 33-12; 35-12; 40-12.