Sharks thrash Munster in 12-try thriller
The Sharks produced a devastating second-half performance as they beat Munster Rugby 50-35 in Durban on Saturday to reach the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals in their debut EPCR campaign.
The South African hosts were three points clear at the break amid scores from Jaden Hendrikse and Eben Etzebeth, but they dismantled Munster after the restart as Bongi Mbonambi (2), Werner Kok, Curwin Bosch – who added 15 points from the tee – and Makazola Mapimpi crossed.
Munster had been in contention through tries from Shane Daly and Dave Kilcoyne, but their second-half efforts from Diarmuid Barron, Mike Haley and Fineen Wycherley were mere consolations.
Cell C Sharks drew first blood on a sunny afternoon as fly-half Bosch dispatched a penalty following a lineout infringement from Munster.
But the Irish province responded on their first attack, creating space out wide with a simple backs move before wing Daly stepped inside and finished in a hugely encouraging moment for his side.
Fly-half Jack Crowley’s conversion put Munster four points up, and that gap would remain as Bosch was off target with a long-range penalty shortly after the restart.
Cell C Sharks were back in front on 15 minutes, though, as wing Mapimpi produced a brilliant step to evade a handful of Munster defenders before feeding fellow EPCR Player of the Year nominee Hendrikse, who had the legs to get over.
There was a blow for Cell C Sharks as Hendrikse injured himself when grounding and was forced off, but they continued to wrestle control of the contest and another EPCR Player of Year nominee was on the scoresheet as lock Etzebeth powered over from close range.
Bosch converted to extend the hosts’ lead to 10 points, but Munster battled their way back into the contest and were rewarded when prop Kilcoyne burrowed over on 31 minutes, Crowley converting again.
The sides would remain separated by just three points at the break, but ill-discipline cost Munster at the start of the second half as they conceded three penalties in quick succession and ultimately allowed to Cell C Sharks to set a lineout drive in the corner, hooker Mbonambi crashing over amid the driving maul.
Munster capitulated after that score and Mbonambi crossed again in a carbon copy of his first effort four minutes later before wing Kok scythed inside to finish for Cell C Sharks’ fifth try.
Bosch added a sixth when he gathered a loose ball and streaked down the touchline to dive over, converting for a fifth time on the afternoon.
Replacement hooker Barron gave Munster the faintest of hope when he planted down on the hour mark, but as they pushed for a fourth try, Mapimpi siezed possession and ran in under the posts from halfway.
Munster would notch another when full-back Haley skipped past a number of challenges to finish well, and they ended on a minor positive as replacement lock Wycherley planted down for the 12th and final try of the game.