United Rugby Championship: ‘Sharks can win the title’ says Connacht’s Conor Oliver

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Connacht back-row Conor Oliver believes the Sharks are good enough to win the United Rugby Championship.

The Irish outfit put on a great first half showing to lead 21-10 at half-time in Durban, but the Sharks put on a second-half clinic scoring 31 unanswered points to hand Connacht their first loss to a South African side this season.

Title contenders

The flanker had nothing but praise for the men from Durban and claimed they have the attributes to claim the title.

“They are a team capable of winning this (the URC), no doubt,” Oliver said. “They are 100 percent physical and there is not much between the Sharks and the others in the top four. Their power game is hard to contain. Once their forwards get past phase three, it is really difficult to stop them (four of the five Sharks tries were scored by tight forwards).”

Connacht coach Andy Friend anticipated a surge during the second period, and loose kicks fed the Sharks counter-attacking opportunities.

“We thought at half-time we had put together a reasonable 40 minutes and the message was to stay in the physical contest and up the ante because we could see their power starting to come through… But then came some loose kicks from us and they were good enough to cash in, and the momentum switched to them,” Friend said.

“The Sharks have a lethal back three who can cut you open if you give them the opportunity, and that is what happened,” the coach explained. “Their fullback (Aphelele) Fassi counter-attacks brilliantly and he was allowed to because of poor kicking by us.”

Sharks coach Sean Everitt earned his money at half-time, inspiring his side to ultimately claim the win and a playoff place as they turn their attention to Ulster for the final round.

“We spoke about actions being louder than words,” Everitt said. “I think maybe the occasion was a bit big for the guys initially but they settled down and got on with the job.

Aphelele Fassi was sublime throughout the game and showed how lethal he can be when given an opportunity to counter-attack.

“People think that when you kick the ball away, you’re giving it to the opposition, but if you kick it well, you get it back and have a counter-attacking opportunity,” Everitt said.

“That’s where guys like Aphelele come into the game. He can turn a game around with good feet and pace and that’s exactly what he did.

“He’s really dangerous from the back and when you add the likes of Makazole Mapimpi, we were able to turn it on from there.

“I’m happy the second 40 minutes was better because there were a lot of people who came to watch us and we didn’t want to disappoint them,” he said. “Things didn’t go our way in the first half, which was quite strange and both teams gave away a lot of penalties.

“Both players couldn’t get into their rhythm, but half-time gave us an opportunity to regroup.

“We had to go out and make it happen in the way we planned during the week. It was a pressure game, so I must give the players credit for doing the job.

READ MORE: Leo Cullen pleased as young Leinster squad clinch top spot

The article United Rugby Championship: ‘Sharks can win the title’ says Connacht’s Conor Oliver appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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