United Rugby Championship

Fabulous Fassi imperious as Sharks made to sweat to beat Scarlets

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Aphelele Fassi with Sam Costelow. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)
Aphelele Fassi with Sam Costelow. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

Springbok Aphelele Fassi produced another fantastic performance from fullback to help the Sharks overcome the Llanelli Scarlets 37-20 at Kings Park on Friday night.

The 24-year-old showed once more why he is putting pressure on Bok incumbent Willie le Roux for the No 15 starting jersey with a showing that was clean in the air and threatening with his feet.

Although evidently playing with a heavily strapped leg, Fassi routinely stepped past Scarlets defenders once they tired.

AS IT HAPPENED | Sharks 37-20

He lorded over the high ball, which was a favourite tactic of the Welsh tourists.

But before the Sharks scored the four tries that sealed them the win, they were made to sweat by the visitors, whose intense game plan could only last about 55 minutes before the hosts showed their true colours.

The Sharks got away with numerous Scarlets near-misses in the first half that would have put the visitors well ahead at the start.

In the 7th minute, Sam Costelow thought he dotted the ball down before Fassi during a high-speed chase but the Sharks fullback got literal fingertips on the ball before the Scarlets 10.

Five minutes later, Steff Evans scored in the corner after a well­­­ crafted backline move from first phase lineout ball, but the right winger's theatrics led him to step into touch, and the try was chalked off.

You'd think that would have woken the Sharks up and called them into action but the opposite happened.

Stand-in captain Siya Kolisi had to make a try-saving tackle on Scarlets scrumhalf Dane Blacker after another clean break from a visiting lineout.

The Sharks would have thought they'd have better control of the contest but they found themselves doing most of the defending and the Scarlets being the most threatening.

The hosts had a spell late in the first half to gain some control, but they could not break the red wall and had to settle for Curwin Bosch levelling penalties to leave the teams tied at 6-6 at the break.

The Scarlets, however, resumed their mission six minutes into the second half when they scored a try that finally stood through Aaron Shingler.

The replacement loose-forward scored from a simple but effective lineout move on the Sharks 5m line.

The Sharks needed creativity and they got it from their two freshest Springboks, Fassi and Jaden Hendrikse, who combined for a sublime score for the fullback.

The scrumhalf put a covert through-ball grubber for Fassi that Scarlets didn't see coming and the man dubbed "Weekend Special" got into his groove towards the try line.

Sean Everitt's men seemed to awaken from their slumber and took the lead for the first time after an hour when Curwin Bosch scored from a Kolisi charge-down. Bosch's conversion made it 20-13 going into the last quarter.

A third Bosch penalty put 10 points between the Sharks and Scarlets, what would have felt like an oceanic distance in the arm wrestle.

The contest was over when the referee awarded a penalty try less than seven minutes from time after the Welshmen illegally prevented a Sharks maul drive from a 5m lineout.

Evans got a late sucker-punch try for the Scarlets with five minutes left from a 50m midfield break, but Marius Louw scored a bonus point try well past the final hooter to seal the deal.

Scorers

Sharks - (6) 37

Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Curwin Bosch, penalty try, Marius Louw

Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Tito Bonilla

Penalties: Curwin Bosch (3)

Scarlets - (6) 20

Tries: Aaron Shingler, Steff Evans

Conversions: Sam Costelow, Dan Jones

Penalties: Sam Costelow (2)

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