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'Bomb squad' Sharks crush Gloucester to make Challenge Cup history

By PA
Eben Etzebeth of Hollywoodbets Sharks lifts the trophy after his team's victory in the EPCR Challenge Cup Final match between Gloucester Rugby and Hollywoodbets Sharks at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 24, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Gloucester’s aim of finishing a mixed season with a second piece of silverware was ended with a crushing 36-22 defeat by the Sharks in the Challenge Cup final.

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Apart from a dominant opening 10 minutes and lively finish, George Skivington’s side were conclusively outplayed in front of a 34,761 crowd at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Gloucester had lifted the Premiership Rugby Cup earlier this season and – after enduring a club record nine-successive Gallagher Premiership losses – Skivington chose to focus on Europe at the expense of the league.

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That led to a weakened sided being fielded against Northampton earlier this month and a 90-0 demolition followed with Skivington hoping the juggling of playing resources would pay dividends.

But instead Gloucester were well beaten with late tries by Santiago Socino and Freddie Clarke giving the final scoreline a kinder sheen as Jonny May’s farewell match failed to produce a scripted ending.

Fixture
Challenge Cup
Gloucester
22 - 36
Full-time
Sharks
All Stats and Data

The Sharks are the first South African side to win a European competition and the foundations for their victory were laid by the ‘Bomb Squad’ front-row combination of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch.

Although they went on to dominate, they spent the opening 10 minutes defending their line with centre Chris Harris going closest to drawing first blood only to fall inches short with an outstretched hand.

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Aphelele Fassi was sent to the sin-bin for offside as the South African side began to buckle but once the storm had been weathered, they advanced downfield and were off the mark through a Siya Masuku penalty.

A monster kick by scrum-half Caolan Englefield saw Gloucester draw level, but having matched the Sharks in the physicality stakes, they then waved through number eight Phepsi Buthelezi for a soft try.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
5
3
Tries
3
2
Conversions
3
0
Drop Goals
0
92
Carries
94
3
Line Breaks
8
14
Turnovers Lost
13
5
Turnovers Won
4

Over went two more penalties from Masuku as his side took to squeezing their opponents and taking the points when they became available.

A dominant scrum early in the second-half gave Gloucester hope they could turn the tide but then as they looked to build pressure, Zach Mercer gave an intercept pass to Grant Williams to put the Sharks back on the offensive.

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Williams’ break was the prelude to another spell of Sharks ascendency that was underscored by three more penalties and a try from Fassi that was the product of fluid attack.

Gloucester hit back with a maul try finished by Albert Tuisue but their failure to deal with a kick opened the door for Makazole Mapimpi to gather a pinpoint Masuku chip and touch down.

Late tries from Socino and Clarke gave the English club scoreboard respectability, but it had been a disappointing night.

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Comments

3 Comments
F
Flankly 25 days ago

This article fails to capture how in control the Sharks were, after the initial minutes of territorial pressure. The scrums were a one way street, Gloucester lineouts were shaky, Sharks place kicking was delivering points reliably, and the Sharks backline were finding ways to convert the scraps of posssession that they were given.

I thought the ref was missing a lot of cynical play, notably at rucks and mauls, and around obstruction in midfield and in the kick chase. Ultimately it was not going to change the outcome, but it was disappointing.

H
Henrik 25 days ago

cool win for the Sharks, saving a rather bleak season

S
Steve 25 days ago

Well done to the Sharks. They looked structured and applied good scoreboard pressure. Gloucester looked very dangerous for the first 10 minutes, then fell away.

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