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Gatland's Lions put Covid upheaval aside to run eight tries past Sharks

Josh Adams was outstanding again as he and Duhan van der Merwe grabbed hat-tricks.

Lions 54

Sharks 7

AFTER ANOTHER DAY of Covid chaos in South Africa, the Lions got back to playing rugby and scored eight tries in Johannesburg against the Sharks, who were game but delivered a huge error count.

Two positive Covid-19 cases in Lions camp had left Warren Gatland without nine players – one who has contracted the virus and eight other close contacts – meaning he had to make sweeping changes to his matchday 23 at a late stage.

duhan-van-der-merwe-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Duhan van der Merwe scored three tries. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tour captain Conor Murray, Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris, and Tadhg Beirne all dropped out of Gatland’s matchday squad.

Josh Adams came in at fullback and continued his impressive form – he has now scored eight tries in three Lions games – while Owen Farrell took advantage of his start at out-half to deliver 52 minutes of quality before making way for Finn Russell.

Ireland’s Iain Henderson impressed as he captained the side, while Bundee Aki scored his first Lions try with a powerful effort from close-range in the first half.

Gatland’s starting pack remained unchanged despite the upheaval and Wales flanker Josh Navidi – a late injury call-up to the squad – shone on his Lions debut, while English trio Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, and Sam Simmonds delivered some big moments. Scotland’s Rory Sutherland made an impact off the bench.

Duhan van der Merwe finished a hat-trick, Adams did the same, while right wing Louis Rees-Zammit also scored.

The Sharks were only intermittently competitive and made some very poor defensive errors to give up easy scores, with the Lions still looking for a genuine test in South Africa ahead of the Test series against the Springboks.

The Lions are looking for a new opponent to take on this Saturday after the postponement of their clash with the Bulls but it remains to be seen what happens with this whole tour after the Covid chaos of today. For now, Gatland’s men will reflect on a decent win in Johannesburg.

josh-adams-runs-in-a-try Josh Adams was outstanding for the Lions. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Lions started quickly as Adams continued his fine try-scoring form when he got on the end of sharp offloads from Farrell and Rees-Zammit to cross.

They had a second on the six-minute mark as left wing van der Merwe dotted down following another Farrell offload and number eight Simmonds’ clever long pass.

The Sharks finally awoke thereafter to slow the Lions’ momentum, although wing Werner Kok’s yellow card for going off his feet following an Elliot Daly linebreak didn’t help their cause.

While the Lions missed the initial chance from a five-metre maul as Lke Cowan-Dickie knocked-on over the tryline, the tourists soon had their third try.

It came from a long grubber kick from Farrell down the left as the 14-man Sharks completely neglected to cover their backfield, allowing van der Merwe to scorch onto the ball, nudge it over the tryline and ground his second try.

bundee-aki-scores-a-try Bundee Aki scores his first Lions try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tit-for-tat penalties at the scrum frustrated the Lions but they finished the half strongly, first with a big Simmonds linebreak they couldn’t finish, and then with a fourth try through Aki, who smashed his way over with a pick-and-go from five metres out.

The Lions couldn’t extend their 26-0 half-time lead early in the second half and it was the Sharks who struck next, with outstanding offloads from Manie Libbok and Jeremy Ward down the right allowing James Ventre to finish a flowing try.

The Lions struck back in the 57th minute as Adams notched his seventh try in three games when Sharks wing Thaakir Abrahams had a nightmare retreating onto a bobbling ball over his own tryline, losing control of it to give Adams the most straightforward of scores.

Adams soon turned provider as countered from a poor Sharks kick and brilliantly offloaded for Rees-Zammit to sprint home from inside his own half, with Finn Russell – on for Farrell – converting for a second time.

Navidi had a possible try chalked off for an earlier side entry at the breakdown by Aki but van der Merwe finished his hat-trick off a nice bit of handling from Elliot Daly after a turnover forced by excellent replacement loosehead prop Rory Sutherland.

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More slick passing from Adam Beard and Taulupe Faletau put Adams over for his deserved hat-trick in the dying stages.  

Lions scorers:

Tries: Josh Adams [3], Duhan van der Merwe [3], Bundee Aki, Louis Rees-Zammit

Conversions: Owen Farrell [3 from 4], Finn Russell [4 from 4]

Sharks scorers:

Tries: James Venter

Conversions: Curwin Bosch [1 from 1]

LIONS: Josh Adams; Louis Rees-Zammit, Elliot Daly, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe; Owen Farrell (Finn Russell ’52), Ali Price; Mako Vunipola (Rory Sutherland ’52), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Ken Owens ’52), Zander Fagerson (Tadhg Furlong ’52); Iain Henderson (captain) (Maro Itoje ’68), Adam Beard; Josh Navidi (Hamish Watson ’72), Tom Curry (Taulupe Faletau ’62), Sam Simmonds (Jack Conan ’62).

SHARKS: Manie Libbok (Anthony Volmink ’62); Werner Kok (yellow card ’21), Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Thaakir Abrahams; Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse (Grant Williams ’67); Khwezi Mona (Ntuthuko Mchunu ’46), Fez Mbatha (Kerron van Vuuren ’55), Khutha Mchunu (Wiehahn Herbst ’46); Ruben van Heerden (JJ van der Mescht ’61), Hyron Andrews (Reniel Hugo ’8); James Venter, Thembelani Bholi (Dylan Richardson ’55), Phepsi Buthelezi (captain).

Referee: Jaco Peyper.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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