Dragons defeated by Sharks in Durban
Dragons felt the full force of a powerful Sharks display in a 51-3 defeat in United Rugby Championship at Hollywoodbets Kings Park – in a game overshadowed by injury to Ross Moriarty.
On a wet and humid night in Durban, the home side lived up to their physical billing with first half tries from front powerhouse duo Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi.
In the second half the Sharks continued to show their teeth and pulled clear with two penalty tries – and two yellow cards for deliberate knock-ons – seeing Dragons reduced to 13 men at one point.
Dragons showed plenty of spirit in adversity but left empty-handed and with injury fears over Wales international Ross Moriarty who was stretchered off in the first half.
Josh Lewis, on his 50th appearance for the region, almost picked out Jordon Olowofela with a clever grubber in behind but Makazole Mapimpi was back to halt the danger.
Sharks showed their intent early on as they got in behind on the left, but solid defence and work by captain Harri Keddie forced a penalty.
A neck roll penalty gave the hosts a first shot at goal and fly half Curwin Bosch knocked over the opening points on seven minutes.
A first scrum then saw Sharks produce a huge nudge to win a penalty but at the other end a shuddering hit by the returning Moriarty dislodged ball.
A second Bosch penalty extended the lead before Dragons struck a first blow of their own, Lewis popping a kick over after the home side strayed offside in midfield.
Bosch continued his perfect night off the tee just before the midpoint of the half, following a no arms tackle, as Dragons continued to work relentlessly in defence to try and halt any home momentum.
Greg Bateman, Will Rowlands and Ben Fry were busy carrying into contact, but the Sharks were living up to their reputation as they looked to drive back runners and ferociously attack the breakdown.
Sharks were applying huge pressure at scrum time and a 50:22 from Bosch gave them an excellent attacking platform just before the half hour.
A horrible collision left Moriarty in agony and the back row was stretchered off and replaced by Basham on the half hour in a big blow for the visitors.
The brute power of the home forwards saw them inch towards the line before giant prop Nche crashed over from close range for a converted score.
The home rolling maul then went to work in destructive fashion as a huge shunt saw Mbonambi smash over for try number two.
World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi was an early replacement and immediately unloaded a big hit on Rosser, with the wing doing well to maintain possession.
Rosser then started an attack of his own down the right, as forwards and backs combined, but a forward pass halted the best phase of play from the Men of Gwent as they trailed 23-3 at the break.
A solid defensive set at the start of the second half, led by Elliot Dee and Jack Dixon, halted early attacks while a trio of replacements saw Taylor, Seuli and Jordan Williams introduced.
But one missed tackle saw space open and an electrifying break from wing Werner Kok saw him jet over for a third home try.
Dragons lost Lewis to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on just before the hour mark – despite appeals that the ball went backwards – and referee Ben Blain awarded a penalty try.
Sharks sensed blood with the man advantage, and it got worse as Lewis Jones was yellow carded for another deliberate knock on and a second penalty try saw Dragons down to 13 men.
With two extra men, home full back Anthony Volmink went over as Sharks used the overlap.
Dragons battled to the end, Rowlands with a big tackle before Basham hacked clear to relieve pressure while Jordan Williams danced past tacklers.
Fry was yellow carded in the final minute – for a no arms tackle – but there was no further additions to score.
07m Bosch p 3-0
13m Bosch p 6-0
16m Lewis p 6-3
19m Bosch p 9-3
29m Nche t Bosch c 16-3
34m Mbonambi t Bosch c 23-3
48m Kok t Bosch c 30-3
59m Penalty t 37-3
63m Penalty t 44-3
67m Volmink t Bosch c 51-3
Cell C Sharks: Anthony Volmink, Werner Kok, Ben Tapuai, Jeremy Ward, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Le Roux Roets, Gerbrandt Grobler, James Venter, Jeandre Labuschagne, Phepsi Buthelezi
Replacements: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Khutha Mchunu, Reniel Hugo, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Siya Kolisi, Grant Williams, Boeta Chamberlain
Dragons: Ioan Davies (J. Williams 47), Jared Rosser, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Jordan Olowofela (Reed 64), Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams (Jones 58); Greg Bateman (Seiuli 47), Elliot Dee (T. Davies 65), Leon Brown (Doge 54), Joe Davies (Taylor 40), Will Rowlands, Harri Keddie, Ben Fry, Ross Moriarty (Basham 28)
Replacements: Taylor Davies, Aki Seiuli, Mesake Doge, Huw Taylor, Taine Basham, Lewis Jones, Will Reed, Jordan Williams
Referee: Ben Blain (SRU, 17th league game)