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Sharks make EPCR history with thumping win over Gloucester

The Sharks became the first South African side to win an EPCR title with an emphatic 36-22 win over Gloucester.

21 points from the boot of Siya Masuku, alongside tries from Phepsi Buthelezi, Aphelele Fassi and Makazole Mapimpi, cemented the title for the Sharks. The victory also guarantees them a spot in the Champions Cup next season.

Gloucester piled the pressure on in the early exchanges. A string of Sharks penalties marched George Skivington’s side up the pitch, but despite creating plenty of chances, and having a numerical advantage following Aphelele Fassi’s yellow card, they couldn’t open the scoring.

Chris Harris came the closest for his side, however he was denied a certain try by Springbok legend Eben Etzebeth.

Dominance at the scrum quickly gave the Sharks momentum, and they made it count through the boot of Siya Masuku for the opening three points of the game.

The Cherry and Whites responded with a three-pointer of their own, as Caolan Englefield slotted a 60 meter penalty kick.

The parity didn’t last long though. A clever offload from Vintcent Koch sent Phepsi Buthelezi powering through a gap in the Gloucester defence, and after a clever dummy, the number eight ran home for the first try of the match. Masuku added the extras.

In the closing stages of the first-half, Masuku knocked over two more penalty kicks to give his side a 13-point lead going into the sheds.

Sharks run away with title

A Grant Williams interception got the Sharks on the front-foot in the opening exchanges of the second-half. It nearly led to the opening score too, however Masuku’s cross-field kick bounced into touch just before Werner Kok could reach it.

They did finally make their dominance count though, as another scrum penalty gifted Masuku an easy penalty in front of the posts.

Masuku was back just three minutes later, as he added his fifth penalty of the evening.

The scoring didn’t stop there though, as Fassi added his name to the scoresheet. Powerful work from Makazole Mapimpi and Bongi Mbonambi drew in the Gloucester defence, and quick hands from Williams sent the fullback in under the sticks.

Gloucester needed a quick response if they stood any chance of a comeback, and they did just that. A powerful lineout maul motored towards the Sharks line, and Albert Tuisue reaped the rewards flopped over for the Cherry and Whites opening score.

Just as quickly as Gloucester scored, the Sharks restored their 16-point lead through Mapimpi. A pin-point kick from Masuku fell perfectly into the winger’s grateful arms, and he made no mistake with the finish.

Skivington’s men thought they had scored a fine try through Stephen Varney, however his effort was chalked off for offside.

With the clock winding down, Gloucester struck with a quick-fire double. Some Harlem Globetrotter-esq play from Chris Harris and Freddie Clarke sent Santi Socino in for the first, and Clarke added his name to the scoresheet moments later after a great break from Ollie Thorley.

Hanro Jacobs nearly ended the game with one last hurrah, but he was held up over the line. Despite this though, the Sharks claimed their first ever EPCR title.

Gloucester 22-36 The Sharks

Gloucester: 22

Tries: Tuisue, Socino, Clarke

Conversions: Hastings (2/3)

Penalties: Englefield (1/1)

The Sharks: 29

Tries: Buthelezi, Fassi, Mapimpi

Conversions: Masuku (3/3)

Penalties: Masuku (5/6)