Springboks duo show finishing prowess as Sharks make it two in a row while Benetton snatch late win

Planet Rugby
Lukhanyo Am in action for the Sharks in the United Rugby Championship in 2024.

Lukhanyo Am in action for the Sharks in the United Rugby Championship in 2024.

Springboks centre Lukhanyo Am held off the attentions of Duhan van der Merwe to score a crucial try as the Sharks sealed a second successive victory.

The Durban outfit were 7-3 ahead following fellow Bok Aphelele Fassi’s brilliant first-half try when the talented centre received the ball out wide.

Am tiptoed down the right-hand touchline and managed to cross the whitewash in the corner, despite the attempted tackle from Scotland powerhouse Van der Merwe.

Although Siya Masuku was unable to convert, with the score remaining 12-3, the Sharks fly-half added two penalties to Ben Healy’s one to take the hosts 18-6 in front.

That effectively sealed the win but the result was put beyond doubt by Phendulani Buthelezi, which meant Boan Venter’s late try was just mere consolation for Edinburgh.

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The opening quarter produced contrasting styles as the Sharks made inroads through their pack while Edinburgh’s livelier moments came when their backs attacked the outside channels.

But it was Fassi who delivered a moment of magic in the 21st minute to turn the early balance on its head as he took a line-out and sprinted through a large gap in the opposition forwards.

The Springbok’s footwork and pace then swept him around fly-half Healy and beyond a despairing tackle by Van der Merwe to score.

Edinburgh were in full survival mode as the Sharks used their pack to batter away at the whitewash and on three occasions committed defence held them up over the line.

Van der Merwe launched a high-speed counter attack that was the prelude to a penalty from Healy and despite being under pressure for most of the first-half, the visitors were only 7-3 down at the interval.

Fassi’s repeated threat with the ball was accompanied by his superb kicking as Edinburgh were sent backwards through a deft touch-finder and his fine afternoon continued by providing the final pass for Am to touch down in the right corner.

A 50-22 was Fassi’s next intervention and when Masuku hit back to back penalties, the Sharks could breath more easily with number eight Buthelezi and Venter exchanging late tries.

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Late try wins game for Benetton

Flanker Alessandro Izekor powered over with just seconds remaining to snatch Benetton a vital 18-14 United Rugby Championship victory over Connacht at Stadio Monigo.

It ended a run of three defeats for the Italians and saw them replace Connacht in the play-off places.

Ignacio Mendy also crossed for Benetton, with Jacob Umaga adding a conversion and two penalties.

Niall Murray and Cian Prendergast scored Connacht’s tries, with Jack Carty converting both.

Benetton went ahead on six minutes with the simplest of tries from an attacking scrum 15 metres out from the Connacht line.

A clean win set the platform and Alessandro Garbisi drew his man before flipping the ball out to fly-half Umaga and his long cut-out pass to Mendy gave the winger the easiest of touchdowns in the corner, with Umaga adding the extras from the touchline.

Umaga then stretched the advantage to 10-0 when Connacht were penalised for a dangerous clear-out on the 10-metre line.

After an attritional period with neither team able to get the upper hand, Connacht got themselves back into the game eight minutes before the break.

Scrum-half Michael McDonald faked to pass long and popped a short pass up to lock Murray to charge through a gaping hole in the Benetton backline and touch down under the posts.

The first points of the second half finally arrived with 12 minutes remaining when Umaga sent over a straightforward penalty as Benetton were rewarded for sustained pressure and took a 13-7 advantage into the final 10 minutes.

But back came Connacht as they elected to send a kickable penalty to the corner and, after knocking on the door in a series of phases just metres from the line, Prendergast picked up from the back of the maul to dive over under the posts and Carty’s conversion put Connacht ahead for the first time in the match.

Umaga sent a drop goal narrowly wide before Izekor bulldozed his way over in the corner to snatch victory with the final play of the game as Benetton were camped in the Connacht 22.

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