British & Irish Lions maul sloppy Sharks

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Duhan van der Merwe of the British and Irish Lions on his way to scoring a try against the Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Duhan van der Merwe of the British and Irish Lions on his way to scoring a try against the Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
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South African-born winger Duhan van der Merwe scored a hat-trick as the British and Irish Lions beat the Sharks 54-7 at Ellis Park on Thursday night.

Josh Adams, playing at fullback, also completed his hat-trick in the game to take his tally to seven tries in two tour games.

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Fresh off their 56-14 win over the Johannesburg Lions, Warren Gatland’s charges put eight tries past the Sharks.

Early nerves and sloppiness when they had a sniff of a scoring chance cost the Sharks, who could have gotten more from the game than the lone James Venter try.

A jittery start

It was the match that almost didn’t happen during a series on the brink of Covid collapse with each passing minute. The Lions had to make eight changes to their match 23 after positive tests came in hours before kick-off, which necessitated a late change in start time by an hour. By the time the match began, it seemed like the Sharks had too long to think about the game and were off to a jittery start.

On the other hand, the visitors were foaming at the mouth to unleash their backline beasts, which they did as early as the third minute when Adams scored the first try of the game and his fifth since landing in SA.

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Former Hoërskool Outeniqua pupil-turned-Scotland-sensation Van der Merwe cantered over for the second score five minutes later, as it looked like the Sharks were in for a long evening.

After going 14-0 down that early and falling prey in scrums and lineouts, Sean Everitt’s men fought back in the middle patches of the first half. Loose-head prop Khwezi Mona swung the scrums around in the Sharks’ favour, loose-forward Thembelani Bholi gave them front-foot ball, and scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse became nuisance-in-chief.

Knocked-on pass

Their period with momentum led to Werner Kok breaking through down the left wing for the Sharks best first-half chance to score, but his inside pass to a free Manie Libbok was inaccurate, and the fullback knocked it.

Soon after, Kok was sin-binned after chasing down Lions No. 13 Elliot Daly ala Lwazi Mvovo on Brian O’Driscoll in 2009, but referee Jaco Peyper penalised him for slowing the ball down thereafter.

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The Sharks lost momentum thereon, and Lions flyhalf Owen Farrell engineered a through ball for Van der Merwe to score his second try in the 27th minute, the Lions’ third.

Inside centre Bundee Aki scored the Lions’ fourth a minute before half-time, the Lions 26-0 up.

Delightful counterattack

The next half then became about damage limitation and stepping outside the realm of ignominy for the Sharks.

After keeping the Lions out with some hearty jabs, the Sharks struck for the first time through No. 6 flanker James Venter in the 51st minute after a delightful counterattack.

They put the Lions defence to the test for another sustained period, much like in the first half, but they let their comeback slip by conceding a sloppy try to Adams.

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As is their quality, the Lions added their sixth try with less than a quarter remaining in the match through 20-year-old Louis Rees-Zammit, who exercised his pace and power past Thaakir Abrahams.

Van der Merwe completed his hat-trick six minutes before full-time to twist the knife into the South Africans before Adams added his third down the same left-hand corner.


Western Province 28 - 30 Griquas

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