The British & Irish Lions scored a flurry of second-half tries to claim a 71-31 victory over an improved 14-man Sharks after being deadlocked in the first half.
Gameflow: It must be said that, despite the scoreline, the Sharks were far improved from their 54-7 defeat by the same opponents on Wednesday.
It looked like this game may be an exact replica when Chris Harris scored the Lions’ first try after just four minutes. However, the first half was anything but, as the Sharks punished a loose and error-filled performance from the Lions.
The lead changed hands several times in an exhilarating first half filled with excellent attacking rugby. Jaden Hendrikse, Thaakir Abrahams and Anthony Volmink all scored tries as the Sharks went into the break level with the Lions at 26-26.
The big question was whether the Sharks were going to be able to keep up their intensity, especially given that they had noticably tired during the latter stages of the first half.
Unfortunately, the game shifted and the result was all but decided when Hendrikse, so excellent in that first half, saw the red mist and threw an elbow into the head of a Lions player after making a tackle. Referee Wayne Barnes had absolutely no option but to brandish a red card, putting the Sharks up against it for the rest of the half.
While the Sharks did show some fight, with Werner Kok scoring from Conor Murray’s charged-down kick, it was pretty much one way traffic as the Lions added a further seven tries to the tally.
Players who shone: Firstly, plaudits have to be given to several Sharks players for putting their hands up and fearlessly taking the game to their opponents. Once again, Werner Kok had a good game, putting in some big hits and working hard across the park, deservedly capping his performance with a try.
The Sharks back row of Dylan Richardson, who made over 20 tackles, Mplio Gumede and Phepsi Buthelezi were all largely excellent. Sharks scrumhalf Hendrikse had such a good first half making it all a bigger pity that his performance was spoiled by a moment of immaturity.
For the British & Irish Lions, Duhan van der Merwe was once again strong and broke tackles at will, while also setting up Harris’ opening try. Hamish Watson was strong at openside again, while Elliot Daly came alive in the second half after struggling and making a couple of unforced errors in the first.
Anthony Watson put up his hand to be selected for the first Test against the Springboks, scoring a second-half brace.
British & Irish Lions – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Rory Sutherland.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Tom Curry, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Bundee Aki.
Sharks – 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Murray Koster, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (c), 7 Mpilo Gumede, 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Nthuthuko Mchunu.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 MJ Majola, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images