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Sharks bite down on European debut as Harlequins fightback falls short

By PA
(Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Harlequins opened their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a 39-31 defeat by Sharks in a thrilling encounter on their first trip to South Africa.

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The London side did manage to secure a vital bonus point for scoring four tries, but a late rally saw 14-man Sharks score a fifth try and record two vital bonus points as they took the spoils in Durban.

Sharks lost a player when prop Ox Nche was shown a red card midway through the second half for a head-on collision and Harlequins responded with two tries by centre Andre Esterhuizen.

Wing Josh Bassett crossed for his second try as Quins made it 32-31 before full-back Boeta Chamberlain crossed for the vital try for Sharks in the 79th minute to secure a famous victory.

The Sharks crossed for five tries, with hooker Bongi Mbonambi and winger Makazole Mapimpi crossing for two tries and wing Werner Kok joining full-back Chamberlain on the scoresheet.

Quins opened the scoring with an early try after five minutes by wing Bassett, who signed for the club after the demise of Wasps, was found with a superb long pass by fellow wing Cadan Murley after a lineout close to the home side’s line.

Fly-half Tommaso Allan landed the conversion to give the visitors a 7-0 lead before Sharks replied with a try of their own as international hooker Bongi Mbonambi crashed over from a driving lineout.

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Curwin Bosch landed the extras to make the scores all level before he converted a penalty to give the home side a 10-7 lead and Sharks then extended their lead with a second try.

South Africa winger Mapimpi, back in Sharks colours, took advantage of some sloppy defending to cross for his first try to make it 17-7 to the home side midway through the first half. Curwin added the extras with his second conversion.

Mapimpi crossed for his second try after a dominant scrum by the Sharks five metres out from the Harlequins line saw him dance and step his way past defenders to cross the whitewash and to make it 22-7.

Quins flanker Will Evans crossed for his side’s second try after the visitors showed impressive control at a driving maul, with Allan converting to make it 22-14 at half-time.

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After the break, Sharks crossed for a fourth try after wing Kok raced on to his kick-and-chase to score in the corner, securing the bonus point for the home side. Bosch landed the conversion.

Sharks then went down to 13 men, with hooker Mbonambi shown yellow for persistent infringing, and a head-on collision with Jack Walker saw prop Nche shown a red card.

Harlequins took full advantage, with centre Esterhuizen crossing for two tries, along with Bassett grabbing his brace before Chamberlain sealed the win for Sharks.

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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