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Sharks boost top-four prospects with comeback win over Connacht

By PA
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Connacht were blown away in the second half by the Sharks as they fell short of completing a clean sweep of the United Rugby Championship’s South African sides, losing 41-21 in Durban.

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The Westerners were unbeaten against southern hemisphere opposition this season coming into the fixture but could not build on a 21-10 half-time lead earned through tries from Gavin Thornbury and Caolin Blade and 11 points from the boot of Conor Fitzgerald.

The Sharks looked re-energised after the break and racked up touchdowns from Marius Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, a second for Gerbrandt Grobler and one for Le Roux Roets while keeping their visitors pointless, earning a valuable bonus point in the race for a home play-off.

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The result makes absolutely certain of a place in the quarter-finals for Sean Everitt’s men, for whom Curwin Bosch kicked 16 points, while Connacht were already out of the play-off picture.

Fitzgerald kicked Connacht into a 6-3 lead in the first quarter, with Bosch missing one of his two attempts, but they were dealt a blow when John Porch was yellow-carded for head contact.

The Sharks quickly made their man advantage count, with Grobler barging over from close range and Bosch adding the extras.

The visitors regained the lead three minutes later, however, when Thornbury charged down Jaden Hendrikse’s clearing kick and chased the ball down himself to score.

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Fitzgerald could not add the conversion but split the posts with a subsequent penalty and there was soon daylight between the sides.

On his 150th appearance for the Westerners, Blade sent Finlay Bealham into battle before taking the return pass to run in under the posts, with Fitzgerald’s kick making it 21-10.

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The Sharks sent on Grant Williams at half-time and he made an instant impact, breaching the Connacht defence before feeding Louw to go over next to the posts – a try converted by Bosch.

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The hosts had their tails up and Bosch chalked up another conversion after Mbonambi muscled his way over following a sustained period of Sharks pressure.

Connacht were struggling to stem the tide and Grobler burrowed over before Roets added a fifth, with Bosch converting both.

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