John Plumtree's men defeated Gloucester 36-22 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to win the Challenge Cup


First South Africa conquered the world (again) and now they’ve conquered Europe.

Whatever you think about the addition of teams from the Rainbow nation into EPCR’s flagship tournaments – one of them has now won one in just their second season mixing it on the continent.

Read more: How to watch Investec Champions Cup final wherever you are

Sharks had far too much Springbok firepower for a Gloucester side that have struggled in the Premiership all season. George Skivington’s men failed in their quest to add the Challenge Cup to their Premiership Rugby Cup and with that the chance to truly consign that shuddering 90-0 loss to Northampton to the annals of history.

Siya Kolisi has long been the Springbok star but it was namesake Siya Masuku who masterminded Friday night’s victory with a flawless kicking display. He finished with a personal points tally of 21, a virtuoso display.

While Bilbao 2018 was late heartbreak for Gloucester in this very fixture against Cardiff, on a mild May evening in 2024 it was death by a thousand Masuku penalties, or so it felt. The outnumbered South African contingent among the record 34, 761 (for a Challenge Cup final in the UK) will celebrate long into the night and now have the prospect of seeing the Sharks in Champions Cup action next season to look forward to.

Challenge Cup final as it happened – Sharks win European trophy

Unsurprisingly, given their geographical advantage, Gloucester fans packed out the Spurs stadium pre kick-off and were treated to the full fireworks, flames and pyrotechnics on offer at this state-of-the-art facility.

The Cherry and White faithful kept the noise up once the game got underway and with good reason too as their side dominated the opening exchanges. Wave after wave of Gloucester pressure was repelled by a ferocious Sharks defence.

Sharks full-back Aphelele Fassi was sin-binned after straying offside to hamper Gloucester’s attacking progress. He was lucky to not have already been given a rest by referee Mathieu Raynal after clattering into Zach Mercer as he awaited a high ball in the opening minute.

Scotland centre Chris Harris got closest to breaching the South Africans’ line, but his outstretched hand fell just short of the whitewash and the ball was dislodged by opposing skipper Eben Etzebeth’s sliding knees.

To rub insult into injury, it was the Sharks who finished the sin-bin period up, Masuku’s penalty making it 3-0 after Vincent Koch went to town at scrum time. The Springbok, who was named Player of the Match, and his international colleague Ox Nche wreaked havoc at the set piece, simply proving too much for Jamal Ford Robinson and Fraser Balmain to handle.


Sharks’ Siya Masuku was relentless from the tee (Inpho)

The big hits came flying in as Koch and Etzebeth left their mark on a Gloucester side who looked bewildered that they hadn’t manage to convert their early possession and territorial dominance into points. Santiago Carreras dragged a penalty wide to draw Gloucester level but a 55m howitzer from scrum-half Caolan Englefield did finally draw George Skivington’s men level in North London after 23 minutes.

That only seemed to anger the Sharks as No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi scored a scorching try just three minutes later, rushing onto a Koch pop off the floor and shrugging off the would-be defenders before selling an outrageous dummy when he had a two-on-one to dot down by the posts.

Gloucester may well argue that they should have had a penalty for obstruction just a few phases before when hooker Bongi Mbonambi got in front of the play. But alas, the score stood.

Sharks European trophy

Phepsi Buthelezi celebrates scoring against Gloucester (Inpho)

Koch’s full skillset was on show as he casually kicked a 50:22, outrageous skill for a prop and Masuku’s trusty boot – he added a simple conversion and two further penalties – stretched the lead to 16-3 at the break and it could have been worse for Gloucester. Wing Ollie Thorley looked to be in trouble when Raynal called for the TMO after the Gloucester man’s desperation to get to a kick saw him collide into centre Francois Venter and then take out Fassi in the air.

However, the French match official reversed his initial call and simply awarded a scrum for a knock-on from Fassi, ruling out any foul play.

Second half

Playing towards a particularly vocal pocket of Shed-like fans in the second half, Gloucester started brightly after changing the entire front row at the break and immediately winning a scrum penalty. Skivington could not be accused of sitting on his hands.

Grant Williams intercepted Mercer’s pass to turn defence into attack for the Hollywoodbets Sharks, to give them their full name, and although Gloucester did well to hold them out, they reverted to type by conceding a scrum penalty on their own ball five metres out. Masuku given the easiest of kicks to make it more than a two-score game.


Makazole Mapimpi dives in to score at Spurs (Inpho)

Contestable kicks continued to be a thorn in Gloucester’s side as Carreras suffered a heavy fall on his ten-metre line and Sharks won another penalty which Masuku duly dispatched to make it 22-3.

If that didn’t put the result beyond doubt than Fassi’s try under the sticks immediately after sure did. Kicking unlocked the Gloucester defence and after Mapimpi’s surge on the left wing, Fassi took advantage of the resulting space in the middle to dash West Country dreams.

To their credit, Gloucester didn’t lie down and Fijian replacement Albert Tuisue finshed off a rolling maul to at least ensure the travelling support had a try to cheer in the capital.

After Carreras coughed up another high ball, Masuku’s pinpoint cross-field kick found Mapimpi in space and he dived over in delight. A site that will no doubt have stirred memories of the 2019 World Cup final for Gloucester’s England fans.

Italy international Stephen Varney appeared to have scored a nice try after Jonny May, in his final outing, volleyed Adam Hastings’s nonchalant cross-field kick forward and the bounce of the ball fell to the Wales-born nine. However, a TMO check suggested Varney was offside, much to the displeasure of the Gloucester fans.

Santiago Socino and Freddie Clarke did register consolation scores to give the Gloucester faithful something to cheer but it was a night where nothing truly clicked for the Premiership side, especially when the game was still in the balance.

They’ll come again but next season will be judged on league form alone. No longer can cup runs detract from the main job at hand.

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