The Durbanites started swiftly and smoothly and scored twice before errors started creeping into their game. The Lions fed off one such mistake to open their account and defended manfully to weather a first half the hosts dominated.
For all the ball and territorial advantage (70%) the Cell C Sharks enjoyed, they would’ve been disappointed to only lead 12-7 at halftime. Their endeavour, which forced the visitors to make 105 tackles, paid dividends in the second half, though, as they pulled away with three more tries while the Emirates Lions could only add three points to their tally.
Neil Powell’s charges looked in for all money in the sixth minute when Jeandre Labuschagne hit a gap but Makazole Mapimpi couldn’t hold onto the flanker’s pass. Mapimpi was in two minutes later, this time capitalising on a tackle bust and offload by Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Curwin Bosch nailed the conversion from the left-hand touchline.
B.E.A utiful execution from the @SharksRugby 🤩 @Vodacom #URC | #SHAvLIO pic.twitter.com/uYsQGfV0hW— Vodacom United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial_RSA) December 23, 2022
The red-hot hosts had their second try in the 17th minute, Boeta Chamberlain crossing after seamless handling by the backline but a bad mistake by Labuschagne at the restart was pounced on by Edwill van der Merwe, who grubbered the loose ball ahead and dotted down. Jordan Hendrikse’s successful conversion made it 12-7.
The men in Black and White kept pressing and captain Phepsi Buthelezi went close after breaking off the back of a dominant scrum. The Emirates Lions, however, were resolute and able to clear their line after a knock-on by Dan Jooste. It encapsulated a scoreless second quarter in which the Cell C Sharks failed to take their opportunities.
They set about correcting that with Bosch slotting a penalty goal at the start of the second half after his pack had steamrolled the visitors’ scrum. Hendrikse cancelled it out with a penalty goal of his own moments later but was unsuccessful with his follow-up effort.
That step though 🤤— Vodacom United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial_RSA) December 23, 2022
Grant Williams with a lovely finish for the Sharks. @Vodacom #URC | #SHAvLIO pic.twitter.com/fahEv1AXNm
The Cell C Sharks finally established the breathing room they’d fought for in the 57th minute. Andries Coetzee took too much time with his clearance kick, which allowed Chamberlain to charge him down and Grant Williams to streak in. Bosch’s conversion made it 22-10 going into the final quarter.
Siya Kolisi made his presence felt off the bench with a goose step and breakaway that almost resulted in a try as the Emirates Lions started to run out of steam. Lionel Cronje, taking over from a polished Bosch, stretched the lead to 15 before the hosts had a driving maul try overturned.
However, they got the elusive bonus-point try with six minutes to go courtesy of Kolisi, with Man of the Match Mapimpi adding another after showcasing some impressive soccer skills.
Cell C Sharks 37 (12) – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi (2), Boeta Chamberlain, Grant Williams, Siya Kolisi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Lionel Cronje. Penalty goals: Bosch, Cronje.
Emirates Lions 10 (7) – Try: Edwill van der Merwe. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goal: Hendrikse.