Glasgow win but Sharks emerge with lots of credit

rugby19 April 2024 23:00
By:Gavin Rich

Like most people involved in top-level sport John Plumtree is a competitive human being and doesn’t like losing, but the Hollywoodbets Sharks coach should have been able to afford himself a contented smile after Glasgow Warriors’ scrappy 21-10 win at the Scotstoun on Friday night.

Don’t be fooled by that scoreline, this Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash was a lot closer than that, with Glasgow forced to defend for much of the second half, a period during which they did not score any points and the Sharks applied most of the pressure.

One person who should join Plumtree in being satisfied is the Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White, for the Sharks did deny the Warriors a bonus point and that could be crucial further down the road in the battle for second spot on the log.

With the Sharks making 15 changes to the starting team in order to rest the frontline players for the EPCR Challenge Cup semifinal in two weeks' time, Plumtree made it clear beforehand that he saw the test of his franchise’s depth, as well as a measurement of how much some of the rank and file players have improved since they toured the UK and Ireland last October/November.

He should feel he had positive answers on all those fronts.

Not only is their a wide chasm between the two teams when it comes to the log positions in the URC, the Sharks were also significantly understrength and the expectation was that Glasgow would win at a canter at a ground where they haven’t been beaten in the URC this season.


That didn’t happen. Instead the Sharks after this tenacious and highly competitive performance might pause to lament some missed opportunities which had they been taken might well have led to an upset that would have gone down as one of the Sharks’ most famous wins.

Although Glasgow started with intent and forced five penalties in the first 10 minutes, the Sharks showed their own intent not to give way by repelling two Glasgow attacking opportunities at lineouts set up near their line.

The first was a poach against the throw, the next saw the Sharks jumpers force the Glasgow jumpers into error and concede a scrum put in.

When Glasgow did convert the pressure into points it was when scrumhalf George Horn took a quick tap and caught the Sharks napping near their own line in the 11th minute.

Two of the three Glasgow tries came off quick tap penalties, and those were examples of the soft moments that prevented the Sharks from getting the reward from the game that would have led to proper elation from Plumtree rather than just calm satisfaction.

The Sharks were physical and strong in the contact, and while Glasgow had the early advantage in the scrums, the Sharks scrum unit reversed that dominance quite comprehensively later in the game, particularly when Springbok tighthead Vincent Koch came on.

Not that that should be meant to insult the contribution of the starting front row, and Dan Jooste in his first start at this level at hooker was in a rumbustious mood and powered his way out of a maul to score the Sharks’ first try three minutes before halftime.

Max Williamson, the Glasgow lock, had gone over to score seven minutes before that to put the hosts into a 14-0 lead, with that try being sourced in a soft moment in the sense that skipper Francois Venter failed to pick up a rolling ball and it was off the resultant attacking scrum that Glasgow scored.


But with the Sharks seemingly back in the game it was a hammer blow to them when Glasgow skipper Kyle Steyn punished a penalty against Sharks wing Eduan Keyter by running in under the posts off the second quick tap of the half.

Horne’s conversion made it 21-5, which was a much bigger advantage for Glasgow than had appeared likely a few minutes before.

The Sharks’ defence was strong throughout, with the defenders swarming over the dangerous Glasgow runners and giving them little room to weave the magic the Glasgow crowd is accustomed to.

The Sharks also attacked the loose scrums and that prevented the Warriors from getting their usual cohesion.

Ntuthuko Mchunu, as he invariably does, showed up well on the night as a ball carrier, as indeed did young lock Corne Rahl, and it was in a way fitting that it was the powerfully built Mchunu who scored the second Sharks try.

It came after 53 minutes, with the always crisp service of scrumhalf Grant Williams, who was also very accurate with his box kicks early in the game, getting the line away towards the right before a change of direction and then an overhead pass from Aphiwe Dyantyi found Mchunu on the left touchline.

Mchunu looked like an outsize wing as, with still quite a bit to do, he showed his explosive running power to go over in the left corner.

That proved to be the last points of the game but for most of the rest of the game it was the Sharks in the ascendancy.

Sadly for them, as has been the case so often this season, they just couldn’t convert their possession and territory into points.

But if Plumtree was looking at performance rather than outcome, which he was, he should have left the stadium feeling heartened.

The defeat ended a four-run winning streak but in the circumstances it wasn’t really a case of surrendering momentum.

When the Springboks and other frontline players arrive overseas on Saturday they will be joining what should be a confident and encouraged Sharks camp.


Glasgow Warriors 21 - Tries: George Horn, Max Williamson, Kyle Steyn; Conversions: George Horn 3.

Hollywoodbets Sharks 10 - Tries: Dan Jooste and Ntuthuko Mchunu.