The Durban franchise sent a drastically overhauled team, under the guidance of Currie Cup head coach Joey Mongalo, to Ireland with Director of Rugby Neil Powell and his Springbok stars staying behind to prepare for next week’s big Heineken Champions Cup clash against Union Bordeaux-Bègles.
Mongalo’s men, captained by Reniel Hugo, were pinned in their half for most of the first 40 in which the game was stuck in first gear. The only success they had was in the scrums but that came to nought as a lack of cohesion and soft penalties put them back in their half, with Connacht dominating the lineouts and Cameron Wright’s kicking from the base in the swirling wind not accurate enough to be effective.
The Cell C Sharks failed to fire a shot whereas the hosts scored four answered tries for a commanding 24-0 lead. The impressive Rohan Janse van Rensburg finally opened their account on the hour-mark, with replacement prop Dian Bleuler scoring a second consolation try at the death.
It took 20 minutes for Connacht to open the scoring, flanker Conor Oliver flopping over from a well-structured driving maul. They had their second moments later when Mack Hansen chipped over the top for Tom Farrell to take out of the air and find his centre partner Cathal Forde, who managed to dot down.
The ease with which Connacht scored their third try, which came through Tiernan O’Halloran on the stroke of halftime, suggested the Cell C Sharks were down and out.
However, they came out with newfound fire and picked up the pace, which forced Shane Delahunt to concede a yellow card three minutes into the half. Unfortunately for the visitors, though, they were unable to convert their numerical advantage into points.
As soon as they were back to 15 men, Connacht collected the bonus point as Forde charged down Nevaldo Fleurs’ kick for his second try of the night. The relentless Janse van Rensburg willed his way over in the 60th minute to break the Durbanites’ drought, with replacement Lionel Cronje adding the conversion.
Kerron van Vuuren scored shortly thereafter after a charge down but the try was disallowed upon review as fellow replacement Grant Williams was in front of his hooker when he picked up the loose ball.
As the rain started to bucket down, Bleuler bashed over from short range to have the final say on what was a tough and frustrating night for the game Cell C Sharks.
Connacht 24 (19) – Tries: Conor Oliver, Cathal Forde (2), Tiernan O’Halloran. Conversions: Jack Carty (2).
Cell C Sharks 12 (0) – Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Dian Bleuler. Conversion: Lionel Cronje.