Bongi Mbonambi shines as Sharks end dreadful losing streak

David Skippers
Bongi Mbonambi Sharks URC 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi scored one of the Sharks' tries against Ulster.

The Sharks ended their five-match winless run in the United Rugby Championship when they claimed a hard-fought 22-12 triumph over Ulster in Durban on Saturday.

After last tasting victory last November, the Sharks, who came into this match occupying the bottom position in the standings, were under pressure in front of their home crowd but they were full value for their win as they outscored Ulster by three tries to two.

Phepsi Buthelezi, Eduan Keyter and Bongi Mbonambi scored the home side’s tries and their other points came via the boot of Siya Masuku, who slotted two conversions and a penalty.

For Ulster, Harry Sheridan and Kieran Treadwell crossed the whitewash while John Cooney added a conversion.

Click here for scorers

The Sharks suffered an early setback when George Cronje was wheeled off on a stretcher soon after the kick off, after falling awkwardly following a tackle from an Ulster player.

There was a lengthy break in play as medics attended to Cronje before his departure and when the match resumed, the match was evenly contested. However, Ulster gained the upper-hand midway through the half when Sheridan crossed for the opening try from close quarters.

Despite that setback the home side did not panic and five minutes later they drew level when Buthelezi crossed for a converted try. This, after Aphelele Fassi made a superb line break before hoofing the ball upfield. Ethan Hooker, who was superb throughout, kicked ahead a couple of times but could not gather the ball close to the try-line due to pressure from Mike Lowry. Buthelezi scooped up the ball, however, before diving over the whitewash.

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That meant the teams swapped sides at half-time with the sides deadlocked at 7-7.

The second half started brightly for the home side and after an extended period camped inside Ulster’s half, they took the lead in the 45th minute when Keyter went over for his try.

Makazole Mapimpi did well in the build-up when he stabbed through a perfectly weighted grubber kick inside Ulster’s 22 before Keyter booted the ball ahead and then grounded it behind the try-line.

Ten minutes later, Masuku made it 17-7 to the Sharks when he added his penalty but Ulster narrowed the gap to five points in the 57th minute when Treadwell pounced on a loose ball at a ruck close to the Sharks before crashing over for his try.

That set up a tense finish but the Sharks sealed their victory in the 65th minute when Mbonambi scored his try off the back of a lineout drive deep inside Ulster territory.

The teams

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Eduan Keyter, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Ethan Hooker, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 George Cronje, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Hanro Jacobs, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ntithuko Mchunu
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Corne Rahl, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Francois Venter

Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Ethan McIlroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Mike Lowry, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 David McCann, 6 Harry Sheridan, 5 Iain Henderson (c), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Cormac Izuchukwu, 20 Matty Rea, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Jude Postlethwaite, 23 Sean Reffell

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Colin Brett (South Africa)

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