Duhan van der Merwe scores hat-trick as British & Irish Lions overpower Sharks
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JOHANNESBURG – Covid-19 might have put a damper on the build-up to this game, but it surely did not blunt the attacking exuberance, the clinical execution, the attacking intent, the class of the British and Irish Lions as they crushed a young Sharks side at Emirates Airline Park on Wednesday night.
Despite not being unable to call on Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Conor Murray, Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris and Tadhg Beirne – all victims of a coronavirus scare – and relying on a 7-1 split on the bench, the Lions were just too good for the Sharks.
The tourist ran in eight tries to one to record a second victory on the tour, this time a 54-7 drubbing to add to their 56-14 win against the Sigma Lions.
In all honesty, the Sharks were also their own worst enemies throughout the match, but especially in the first half, butchering scoring opportunities, and were poor in their handling and execution. Mistake after mistake cost the Sharks any parity on the scoreboard. Curwin Bosh was particularly poor in the first stanza, lacking control and precision whereas his counterpart, Owen Farrell, was in full control of his backline.
Their Sharks defence out wide was underwhelming, and the team missed 15 tackles in the first 40 alone.
All their misdemeanours resulted in the Lions ending the half having scored 26 points, attacking the space with a now familiar high-tempo approach and clearing the breakdown at pace. Josh Adams was the first to take advantage of this line speed, dotting down as early as the third minute, with South African-born Duhan van der Merwe scoring a brace in the first half as the monster wing took both his chances on the wing.
His second was especially impressive as it showcases the vision of Farrell, who was bossing the game from No 10. The flyhalf slotted a grubber behind the defence of the Sharks – now one man down due to Werener Kok’s harsh yellow card – and the big No 11 toeing the ball over the tryline and diving on the ball to score.
Speaking of Kok, the former Blitzbok was arguably the best player for the Durbanited on the night, despite spending 10 minutes in the bin. He ran with intent, attacking the gameline, worked hard off the ball and was aggressive in defence.
Bundee Aki ended the half in fine fashion for the Lions, crossing the line in the 38th minute off of a maul. The Sharks were also lucky to not be further behind as earlier Luke Cowan Dickie spilled the ball after driving over the whitewash to deny him a try after a TMO decision.
The Sharks did manage to string together one brilliant attacking play, and it all clicked together as James Venter profited from some good movement and handling to score their opening try in the 51st minute.
But try as they might, the Sharks could not turn the tide, or reduce their basic errors, the Lions running a further four tries in the second half, Josh Adams completing another hat-trick, along with Man of the Match Van der Merwe, to add to the five scored in the famous red previously.
The Sharks failed to build any concerted pressure, and the result, although impressive, will surely be of little value to the Lions coach Warren Gatland.
There is a possibility that the Lions will play this weekend, despite the Bulls encounter being cancelled a SA Rugby scramble to find a match to replace the postponed game.
Sharks (0) 7: Try: Venter; Conversion: Bosch; Yellow Card: Kok
British and Irish Lions (26) 54: Tries: Adams (3), Van der Merwe (3), Aki, Rees-Zammit; Conversions: Farrell (3), Russell (4)