2022 Leinster Rugby vs Sharks

Leinster Continue Unbeaten Streak, Topple High-Flying Sharks

Leinster Continue Unbeaten Streak, Topple High-Flying Sharks

Leinster maintained their unbeaten record with an emphatic 13-try win over the Sharks at the RDS Arena on Saturday.

Oct 10, 2022 by RugbyPass
Leinster Continue Unbeaten Streak, Topple High-Flying Sharks

Leinster maintained their unbeaten record with an emphatic 13-try win over the Sharks at the RDS Arena on Saturday.

Both sides entered the fixture with clean records but it was the Irish province that emerged unscathed, picking apart their South African opponent with pin-point attacking poise and pedigree.

That being said, after 40 minutes of play, very little separated the two teams. Two tries from Gary Ringrose and another from Jason Jenkins gave the hosts the narrowest of margins heading into the break, as the score read 21-20 in Leinster’s favor.

Aphelele Fassi, Werner Kok and Thaakir Abrahams crossed the line for the Sharks to keep them within touching distance. However, their grasp on the game dissipated in the second half as Leinster started to run rampage, with even Johnny Sexton joining in on the try-scoring festivities as his side cruised to a 54-34 win in front of a jubilant home crowd.

Heading into the game, such an extravagant win was not foreseen, given the strength shown by the Sharks, and indeed the other three South African teams in the URC, in the opening rounds of the season.

Before Friday, the Stormers, Lions, Sharks and Bulls all populated the top eight of the league table, having won 19 of their 20 respective matches.

Leinster will need little reminding of the talent in the ranks of South African club rugby. At the tail end of last season, the men in blue headed into the URC playoffs as the favorites, but made an early exit after falling in the semifinals to the Bulls. The loss meant they succumbed to a first trophyless season since 2017 and made clear the threat the URC’s four newcomers possessed.  

But over the weekend Leinster did not falter. With the scores almost even at halftime, Johnny Sexton and his teammates chose to raise their game. Indeed, the Irish fly-half even managed to get on the scoresheet with a rare try scored in the second period.

Further scores from Andrew Porter, Robbie Henshaw, Rob Russell and John McKee helped the hosts on their way to winning 54-34. Last week the Sharks recovered from an early deficit, beating Dragons 20-19 courtesy of a second half revival, but this time a comeback didn’t materialise.

Things got even worse for the visitors when Janse van Rensberg was shown red for a high tackle on Ross Byrne.

Following the win, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted there were still plenty of tweaks to be made ahead of his side’s upcoming derby in Galway against Connacht.

“I thought we started with good intent, the guys did a decent week’s work,” Cullen said.

“We prepared well for this game, we knew it would be a good challenge, the Sharks have that bit of cohesion and togetherness off the back of two wins, and with Noel [McNamara, Sharks attack coach] coming back here, there were lots of factors we were concerned about.

“They’re big, physical men, you see them, size-wise, and that’s the challenge. It’s a totally different ball game we’re up against in this competition.” 

Cullen went on to praise the collective exploits of the South African sides this season and acknowledged the injuries his team faces currently.

“The South African teams have picked up wins. Even the Lions, who would have lost a lot of players to the likes of the Sharks, they picked up wins on the road, so they’re circling. It’s created a totally different dynamic to the competition.

“We’re missing a few players at the moment, so we’re a bit tighter on resources, so it’s a good challenge, a really good challenge. For us, this week is to learn from the bits where Sharks went after us defensively. We got tight a few times, where we get done on the edge or are over-chasing and get done on the inside."

One player who rose above the rest was Gary Ringrose, who started the match on the bench but came on after just 20 minutes to replace the injured Jordan Larmour. Usually deployed as a centre, Ringrose spent most of his on-field minutes as a winger and impressed, crossing the whitewash twice across the course of the contest.

“Well I think when you’re coming on after 20 minutes and you get man of the match you’re clearly doing something very good,” said Cullen.

“I think some of the scanning in terms of where the space is, we knew their wingers would play pretty high.”

The result means Leinster remain top of the URC while the Sharks drop down to eighth in the table.

Written by Stefan Frost