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Sharks left scratching heads after slow start in URC loss to Ulster

Sharks player Grant Williams on his way to scoring a try in the United Rugby Championship against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast - 20 May 2022. Picture: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Sharks player Grant Williams on his way to scoring a try in the United Rugby Championship against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast - 20 May 2022. Picture: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published May 21, 2022

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Durban - The brilliant manner in which the Sharks finished their match against Ulster left their supporters wondering why they did not start in that fashion, but the silver lining to the cloud of losing 24-21 is that if the Sharks indeed have to return to Belfast for a playoff, they will have the belief they can win.

The Sharks were poor in the first half and early in the second half were down 24-7 before rallying in the final quarter to score two superb tries and give the home team and their very vocal supporters a fright.

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Ultimately, though, the Sharks had left themselves with too much to do and coach Sean Everitt was left ruing the defensive errors that gifted Ulster two easy first-half tries.

“It was a game that probably got away from us and a big lesson was learned,” Everitt said from Belfast. “It was our first time at the Kingspan Stadium and it is not an easy place to play at, and we started slowly, but I am very proud of the courage the guys showed in the way they fought back.

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“We are very disappointed with the loss but there was lot of energy, the guys played their hearts out and left nothing out there on the pitch, as you saw from how we finished the game. It is a pity that we let them get that lead through some defensive errors — they were able to get over the line twice for tries they did not have to work for.”

The Sharks lost the breakdown battle in the first half especially, but they grew in confidence in the second half when they started keeping the ball in hand.

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“It was a different story after halftime,” the coach said. “We got good field position and really nice reward from some good rugby, probably some of the best rugby we have played with ball in hand.

“Credit must go to our bench — they came on and made a huge impact and that is exactly what we needed because Ulster are a physical team and we needed our full squad to deal with them.”

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Replacement scrumhalf Grant Williams scored a sensational try and was the catalyst for another by Marius Louw, while substitute prop Ntuthuko Mchunu showed initiative and power in equal measure to take a quick tap penalty and barge over the line.

The bonus point the Sharks earned meant they finished Friday night in fourth place on the log, a point behind the Bulls who won handsomely against the Ospreys but if the Stormers beat the Scarlets on Saturday evening they will leapfrog both the Sharks and the Bulls to clinch the SA Shield.

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