Sharks edge out Ulster to earn second win of the season

Sharks edge out Ulster to earn second win of the season

Richie Murphy’s opening involvement as Ulster interim coach ended in defeat to a powerful Sharks selection, though it was a game which was rarely able to rouse itself above Durban’s humid heat.

The Sharks, with Eben Etzebeth on board, secured just a second win in this URC campaign. Although they dominated the second half of this scrappy match they were unable to claim a bonus point against an Ulster selection which battled to the end in this the first of their two-game mini tour to South Africa.

At one point late in the second half, Ulster had to make do with 13 men after referee Ben Whitehouse sent both skipper Iain Henderson and James Hume to the bin, while the Sharks were also reduced by one as Vincent Tshituka was also off for 10 minutes for his tangle with Hume.

Harry Sheridan and Kieran Treadwell scored tries in either half for Ulster, though the latter’s should have been disallowed due to a hand in a ruck that was missed by both referee and TMO.

After 18 minutes of scrappy deadlock, Ulster launched a penalty towards the corner, following it up with an attempted driving maul.

Though the Sharks defended it well, Tom Stewart broke off and Ulster drove towards the line following several pick and goes. The inevitable penalty advantage came before Harry Sheridan barrelled through at the posts, touching down despite the attempt of Lukhanyo Am to get an arm under the ball. John Cooney converted and Ulster deservedly had the lead.


The Sharks responded by tying things up but only after profiting from an Ulster error eight minutes later. A lost ball by Stewart in the Sharks’ 22 was pounced on by Aphelele Fassi who booted the ball down the park.

Will Addison was completely done for pace by Ethan Hooker and though the centre was halted by some last-ditch work from Michael Lowry and Stuart McCloskey, the ball was loose in Ulster’s red zone and Phepsi Buthelezi picked up to score. Siya Masuku converted from the touchline.

Though the Sharks ramped up the pressure they failed to score again despite having an attacking lineout in Ulster’s 22 – which was overthrown – and a five-metre scrum, which resulted in Hanro Jacobs knocking on in a carry close to the line.

Fortunate to make the halfway mark with the scoreline reading 7-7, Ulster then lost Munster-bound outhalf Billy Burns to an arm injury just a minute after the restart, with Nathan Doak coming on at 10.

Five minutes had gone when Makazole Mapimpi’s grubber was hacked on by Eduan Keyter who scored via downward pressure from his body. Masuku slotted another great conversion.

He then kicked a 53rd-minute penalty just as the Sharks brought on Ox Nche and Vincent Koch to severely up the ante at set-piece time.


Three minutes later Ulster were back in the game when Kieran Treadwell grabbed a loose ball to barrel over.

With the referee and TMO looking at several replays, both somehow failed to identify Sheridan’s hand nudging the ball into the open and the score stood. Cooney missed the conversion though and the Sharks led 17-12.

In the wake of a 64th-minute scuffle near the Ulster line, Whitehouse yellow-carded Henderson for a high tackle, and Hume for the afters, along with the Sharks’ Tshituka.

With it 13 against 14, it was no surprise that the Sharks went for the corner and mauled over for Bongi Mbonambi to get a crucial try which went unconverted by Masuku.

With both sides back to full complements, Ulster held out thanks to a last-ditch tackle by Scott Wilson on Tshituka to at least deny the hosts maximum points.

SHARKS: A Fassi; E Keyter, L Am (capt), E Hooker, M Mapimpi; S Masuku, J Hendrikse; N Mchunu, B Mbonambi, H Jacobs; E Etzebeth, G Grobler; P Buthelezi, V Tshituka, G Cronje


Replacements: J Labuschagne for Cronje (1 min); O Nche for Mchunu, V Koch for Jacobs (both 52); C Rahl for Etzebeth (59); K van Vuuren for Mbonambi, F Venter for Hooker (both 70). Not used: C Wright, C Bosch.

Yellow card: Tshituka (64 mins).

ULSTER: W Addison; E McIlroy, J Hume, S McCloskey, M Lowry; B Burns, J Cooney; S Kitshoff, T Stewart, T O’Toole; K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt); H Sheridan, D McCann, N Timoney.

Replacements: N Doak for Burns (41 mins); S Reffell for Timoney, A Warwick for Kitshoff (both 50); Matty Rea for Sheridan (61); S Wilson for O’Toole (63); J Andrew for Stewart (64); J Postlethwaite for Addison (72); C Izuchukwu for Treadwell (75).

Yellow cards: Henderson, Hume (both 64 mins).

Referee: B Whitehouse (WRU).

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