The Sharks fought bravely but were ultimately outclassed 42-17 by Munster in Limerick in their opening match of the United Rugby Championship on Saturday night.
The Sharks were outscored by five tries to two and struggled the whole night to get any form of ascendancy and a mounting penalty count against them as the night progressed meant they were always going to struggle against an Irish team who play just like the Bulls, which is not surprising given their coach is former Bulls man Johann van Graan.
The Sharks enjoyed a bright start, keeping the ball for over two minutes before earning a penalty for Curwin Bosch to miss ... In all seriousness, it may have been the total silence from the crowd that freaked him out, this being a proud tradition of the Munster faithful.
And it was Munster that opened the scoring, completely against the run of play. The ball had gone loose near the touchline from a Sharks pass and wing Simon Zebo picked it up and scampered 80m for the try.
Apart from that, the opening quarter was all Sharks in terms of territory and possession but so much of their good work would get undone by an error or a penalty, and then they would start again ...but for all that domination they never threatened to score, which was also testimony to the watertight Munster defence.
Earlier in the day, Leinster had also defended brilliantly against the Bulls, so clearly it is an Irish thing. In fact, there were definite similarities in the patterns of the two games in that the Irish teams are able to soak up long periods of pressure and then strike back with a score the minute they get into the opposition 22.
Just on the half hour mark, matters began to go south for the Sharks when Thomas du Toit was yellow carded for a steal deemed illegal by the referee (this would be an ongoing problem for the Sharks in that they seemed at odds with the ref’s interpretation of what was okay).
As Du Toit trailed off the field, flyhalf Joey Carberry kicked the penalty for an 8-0 lead.
A great break by Phespi Buthelezi created pressure in the Munster 22 and the penalty came the way of the Sharks and this time Bosch could not miss from straight in front.
But having got on the scoreboard, the Sharks committed the cardinal error of not tidying up the restart and Dylan Richardson was penalised for obstruction. The penalty was kicked to the corner and a few phases later the try was scored by scrumhalf Craig Casey, five minutes before half time.
But that was not the end of it. Three minutes after the hooter, a quick tap penalty near the Sharks line culminated in the home team’s third try and suddenly the Sharks were entering their change room 20-3 down.
The nightmare continued for the Sharks ten minutes into the second half when another tap penalty near their line saw No 8 Gavin Coombes surge over.
There was hope of a Sharks revival when at last something went their way when Boeta Chamberlain intercepted inside his half and sprinted to the posts for a seven-pointer.
Munster kicked a long range penalty to nudge them up to a 30-10 lead but the Sharks were not finished and a strong break by Jeremy Ward created space for Yaw Penxe, who finished superbly.
Munster had the final say, though, when a penalty kicked to the corner inevitably produced a forward rumble over the line, and then they well and truly put the Sharks to the sword with a second try by wing Zebo, who followed up a kick through the defence.
Munster – 42: Tries: Simon Zebo (2), Craig Casey, Craig Evans, Gavin Coombes, Chris Cloete. Conversions: Joey Carberry (2). Penalties: Carberry (3).
Sharks – 17: Try: Boeta Chamberlain, Yaw Penxe. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalty: Curwin Bosch.