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Beirne bags brace as Lions rack up 71 points after earlier Sharks scare
Jaden Hendrikse’s red card allowed Warren Gatland’s men to storm home.

Lions 71

Sharks 31

IT FELT LIKE a contest until Jaden Hendrikse’s moment of madness in the 46th minute, the Sharks scrum-half driving his elbow into Lions fullback Liam Williams’ head on the ground to earn himself a deserved red card.

Warren Gatland’s Lions were level at 26-26 at that point and it had been an exciting game in which the Sharks had improved from Wednesday’s first game between the sides, but the tourists were always likely to finish over the top even without the advantage of an extra player.

tadhg-beirne-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-courtney-lawes Dan Sheridan / INPHO Tadhg Beirne scored a brace for the Lions. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Gatland will be frustrated that several of the Sharks’ best moments came directly from sloppy Lions errors as they pushed passes and handed turnover possession to the South Africans with basic mistakes in the first half.

They were underwhelming for much of the opening 40 minutes but had something of a stroll to the finishing line after Hendrikse’s red card.

There was still good stuff from the 11-try Lion again on a night where flanker Tadhg Beirne finished two from close-range and his Ireland team-mate and back row companion Jack Conan also crossed.

Anthony Watson and captain Jamie George also bagged a brace each but tour captain Conor Murray had a less pleasing outing as he was sin-binned late on for repeated collective infringements by the Lions, having earlier been blocked down for a Sharks score.

That said, Murray did add some nice tempo in attack on what was ultimately a stop-start evening for the Lions. Running in 71 points made for some good Lions viewing, but Gatland is likely to focus more on the cause for conceding 31 in his review.

The Sharks deserve credit for backing up after Wednesday’s defeat to the Lions. The tourists roll on without certainty over their next opposition and still waiting on an 80-minute challenge close to what they will expect in the Tests against the Springboks.

duhan-van-der-merwe-makes-a-break-past-thaakir-abrahams Dan Sheridan / INPHO Duhan van der Merwe carries for the Lions. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

An early Lions try suggested this could be all one-way traffic for the entire 80 minutes as Duhan van der Merwe broke through on kick return and flicked a clever one-handed pass away for Chris Harris to score.

But the Sharks were game for the challenge and an error from Elliot Daly, who spilled the ball forward as he wound up a pass, allowed them to scoot away for a counter-attack try finished by fullback Anthony Volmink.

A turnover penalty at the breakdown gave Sean Everitt’s side the platform to then take a 15th-minute lead, back row Dylan Richardson carrying explosively before the Sharks swung back to their left for out-half Lionel Cronjé to roll a clever grubber kick into the left corner, where wing Thaakir Abrahams managed to dot down.

The Lions pack had an enjoyable few minutes around the quarter mark, winning a scrum penalty and then conjuring an equalising five-metre maul try for captain and hooker Jamie George.

However, the Sharks nudged back in front when scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse intelligently intercepted opposite number Gareth Davies’ poor pass and streaked away to score from deep inside his own half.

The Lions responded swiftly as Dan Biggar dummied, broke, and offloaded overhead for fullback Liam Williams to put van der Merwe away in the left corner, Biggar converting for 19-19.

jamie-george-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-duhan-van-der-merwe-and-hamish-watson Dan Sheridan / INPHO The Lions celebrate Jamie George's try. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Gatland’s men continued to make errors, though, and a poor Biggar pass resulted in a van der Merwe knock-on, again allowing the Sharks to swoop onto the loose ball – Abrahams bursting away and feeding Volmink on his inside for another Sharks score.

The Lions did manage to draw level just before half time when the Sharks neglected to get a defender to the right edge of a defensive breakdown in their 22, with flanker Tadhg Beirne spotting the big gap, picking the ball, and charging over.

The Lions started the second half with another stutter as van der Merwe had a pass intercepted but the Sharks had a moment of self-implosion as Hendrikse swung an elbow onto the head of Williams on the ground after helping to force him into touch. Referee Wayne Barnes sent him off after a video review.

The Lions duly marched down into the Sharks’ 22 where number eight Jack Conan barrelled over in the left corner. The numerical advantage told again a couple of minutes later as Conor Murray – just on the pitch for Davies – took a quick lineout and Williams sent Daly scorching into a hole to finish.

But the Lions had another sloppy moment directly from the restart as Murray was blocked down by Reniel Hugo in attempting to box kick clear, with Sharks outside centre Werner Kok pouncing on the loose ball to score.

The Lions responded well with a flowing team score that featured nice offload from Beirne and Tadhg Furlong, with the former then going close to crossing on a direct running line off Murray before hooker George grabbed his second off Hamish Watson’s pass.

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tahdg-furlong Dan Sheridan / INPHO Tadhg Furlong on the charge. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Right wing Anthony Watson was next over for Gatland’s side, going close in the right corner initially and then scoring off Biggar’s inside pass closer to the posts. 

Beirne grabbed his second try in the 64th minute, finishing off a Murray pass from close-range as the Sharks’ defensive effort continue to drop off. Watson broke clear from just outside the Lions’ 22 for their 10th try, the England wing passing for replacement back row Tom Curry to gallop home from 35 metres out. 

A superb long-range solo effort from Watson sealed the deal for the Lions late on.

Lions scorers:

Tries: Chris Harris, Jamie George [2], Duhan van der Merwe, Tadhg Beirne [2], Jack Conan, Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson [2], Tom Curry

Conversions: Dan Biggar [8 from 10], Elliot Daly [0 from 1]

Penalties:

Sharks scorers:

Tries: Anthony Volmink [2], Thaakir Abrahams, Jaden Hendrikse, Werner Kok

Conversions: Lionel Cronjé [3 from 5]

Penalties: Lionel Cronjé [0 from 1]

LIONS: Liam Williams; Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Chris Harris (Bundee Aki ’69), Duhan van der Merwe; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies (Conor Murray ’48 (yellow card ’75)); Rory Sutherland (Wyn Jones ’56), Jamie George (captain) (Ken Owens ’56), Tadhg Furlong (Kyle Sinckler ’56); Courtney Lawes (Adam Beard ’65), Jonny Hill; Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson (Tom Curry ’60), Jack Conan (Sam Simmonds ’56). 

SHARKS: Anthony Volmink; Marnus Potgieter, Werner Kok, Murray Koster (Rynhardt Jonker ’65), Thaakir Abrahams, Lionel Cronjé (Boeta Chamberlain ’60), Jaden Hendrikse (red card ’46); Nthuthuko Mchunu (MJ Majola ’51), Kerron van Vuuren (Dan Jooste ’60), Wiehahn Herbst (Rynhardt Jonker ’53); Le Roux Roets (Cameron Wright ’49), Reniel Hugo; Dylan Richardson, Mpilo Gumede (Jeandre Labuschagne ’49), Phepsi Buthelezi (captain) (Thembelani Bholi ’60).

Replacements: Khutha Mchunu, Jeremy Ward, Lourens Adriaanse, Curwin Bosch.

Referee: Wayne Barnes.

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