The Sharks suffered another defeat in the United Rugby Championship as they were narrowly beaten 12-13 by Connacht at home on Saturday, despite the return of Lukhanyo Am. The difference in the match was the kicking prowess of JJ Hanrahan, who outperformed the Sharks in this aspect of the game. Connacht got off to a dream start when Sean O'Brien crossed for their first try, capitalizing on the Sharks' fragile confidence. The Sharks responded with tries from Sikumbuzo Notshe and Werner Kok, but unfortunately, they were unable to match Connacht's accuracy off the tee.
Connacht took advantage of the Sharks' shaky state of mind from the beginning, scoring on their first attack. The forwards showcased their strength by driving the Sharks back from a close-range lineout, and O'Brien powered over for the try, which Hanrahan converted. Despite the return of Lukhanyo Am, the Sharks struggled to break through Connacht's resilient defense. The opening quarter saw the Sharks commit six handling errors under pressure.
However, they managed to find their rhythm before halftime with Notshe scoring a try to level the scores. Unfortunately, Curwin Bosch missed the conversion, and the Sharks immediately gave away a penalty, allowing Hanrahan to add three points for Connacht. The Sharks continued to struggle with possession in promising areas, while Connacht maintained their advantage, leading 10-5 at halftime.
The third quarter mirrored the pattern of the first half, both teams enduring the draining humidity. However, Connacht's cause was hindered when lock Oisin Dowling was yellow-carded for a technical infringement. The Sharks quickly capitalized on the numerical advantage as Kok sprinted over for a try, giving his team a narrow lead when Bosch successfully converted.
Despite the Sharks' significant improvement, Connacht displayed impressive resilience and discipline. With 13 minutes remaining, Hanrahan regained the lead for Connacht with a successful penalty kick. The Sharks had an opportunity to take the lead with just six minutes left on the clock, but replacement kicker Boeta Chamberlain failed to convert the angled penalty attempt. This missed opportunity summed up the Sharks' season so far.
In conclusion, the Sharks' return of Lukhanyo Am was not enough to secure a victory against Connacht in the United Rugby Championship. Connacht's accuracy off the tee, along with their strong defensive organization, proved to be the deciding factors in the match. The Sharks will need to address their handling errors and capitalize on their scoring opportunities if they hope to turn their season around.