2022 Sharks vs Harlequin F.C.

Sharks Make History With First Champions Cup Win Against Harlequins

Sharks Make History With First Champions Cup Win Against Harlequins

The Sharks opened their first Heineken Champions Cup campaign with an entertaining bonus-point win against Harlequins in Durban.

Dec 11, 2022 by RugbyPass
Sharks Make History With First Champions Cup Win Against Harlequins

The Sharks opened their first Heineken Champions Cup campaign with an entertaining bonus-point win against Harlequins in Durban.

The 39-31 victory was characterized by almost an hour of control and poise from the home side, which carried an eight-point lead into the break, but things began to turn when they were reduced to 13 men, when Bongi Mbonambi was shown yellow and Ox Nche saw red.

With a quarter of the game left to play, Harlequins managed to gather momentum, surging to within a point of the Sharks with the clock approaching the red. However, any hope of a comeback was dashed when fullback Boeta Chamberlain crossed over to secure a historic first win for the Sharks in European competition.

Heading into the fixture, there was doubt about how Harlequins would fare traveling further afield than usual. Of particular concern was the absence of playmaker Marcus Smith, who was sidelined with an ankle injury sustained when featuring for England against South Africa in late November.

At first, it appeared Harlequins was more than capable of competing, as a looping pass made its way to winger Josh Bassett, who shimmied his way past a scrambling defender, giving his side the lead with just over five minutes gone.

That advantage didn't last long though, as the Sharks found themselves with a lineout inside the Harlequins 22. Mbonambi delivered the set piece and assembled at the back of the rolling maul, before charging over the line.

From that moment, the South African side looked in complete control, dictating the flow of the game to its own tune. 

Another Springboks player, this time in the guise of Makazole Mapimpi, notched the Sharks' second score, dancing his way through defenders, before stretching out to place the ball down by the goalpost.

The finish was a sublime piece of individual brilliance, but in truth, lax defending from the London side was equally responsible for letting the winger through.

The same could not be said for Mapimpi's next try, which came off the back of a Sharks scrum. 

Jaden Hendrikse was the mastermind in this instance, feigning to pass the ball from the base of the scrum to his fly-half, before delivering a sumptuous out-the-back offload down the short side to Mapimpi, who crossed over untouched. 

Danny Care attempted to stifle Hendrikse, but failed, and his baffled look immediately afterward spoke volumes of the ingenuity at play.

Harlequins was visibly wounded, yet managed to get some back before the break, as Dino Lamb crashed over from a rolling maul, reducing the Sharks lead to eight points.

Any hope of a comeback seemed to be dashed early in the second 40, when Werner Kok, a sevens player by trade, drifted toward the right touchline and, seeing that his options were limited, opted to punt the ball downfield and give chase.

With no one on hand to cover the kick, Kok caught up with the bobbling ball and touched down, much to the elation of his teammates.

Then, the tide began to turn, first when Mbonambi was yellow carded for an illegal intervention at the ruck. Things got worse for the men in black shortly after, when Nche made contact with a ball carrier's head when making a tackle, and he was given a red for his actions.

All of a sudden, the Sharks were ahead 29-14 but had to last the remaining 20 minutes of the game a man down.

Harlequins spared no time making use of the advantage, utilizing quick handling to get the ball out wide to Andr‚ Esterhuizen, who converted with ease against his former teammates.

It didn't take long for the South African center to nab his second of the day. Mere minutes later, he finished off a well-worked attacking move, which began with Bassett storming down the left wing with plenty of grass to attack.

Harlequins did orchestrate another attacking opportunity, and Esterhuizen nearly came away from it with a hat-trick, falling just short of the try line. Instead, the ball was recycled and distributed to Bassett, who once again stepped inside to score.

With three minutes left on the clock, Harlequins trailed by one, but just as the team's hopes of a comeback started flowering, Boeta Chamberlain received a brilliant flick pass and ran in to score the winning try.

In the end, the Sharks got their just reward. They were the better side for large swathes of the match and looked more harmonious and well-oiled than their opponents.

Elsewhere, it was a mixed bag for South African sides in Europe. 

The Bulls managed to come away from their first Champions Cup outing with a win, toppling last season's Challenge Cup winner, Lyon, 42-36 in another high-scoring affair.

The Stormers were not as successful in their tournament debut, losing 24-14 to Clermont, despite leading 14-3 at the break. 

The French side has been struggling for consistency this term but managed to out-muscle their opponents and come out eventual winners.

Meanwhile, the Lions shared the spoils with the Dragons in their Challenge Cup tie, drawing a fiercely fought contest 31-31.

Written by Stefan Frost