WATCH: Jaden Hendrikse brain implosion helps Lions see off spirited Sharks
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DURBAN - The score-line of 67-31 in the record books will indicate another annihilation of the Sharks by the Lions, the second in the space of a week, but what will never be known is what could have transpired had it not been for a spectacular brain implosion by the Sharks scrumhalf just after half time.
The teams had been locked at 26-26 after an eye-opening 40 minutes in which the Sharks had shocked the free-wheeling Lions but then Jaden Hendrikse inexplicably resorted to a cheap-shot elbow to the head of a Lions player as they sunk to the ground in a tackle.
It was right in front of the touch judge and he was automatically red-carded. In terms of self-belief, that was like a pricked balloon for the Sharks while in practical terms it meant the Lions would be running at one less defender, and the flood gates soon opened.
But what a first half it had been….
The Sharks had gone into the game with a theoretically weaker side because they had made ten rotational changes to the (strongest possible) side that was pumped by 50 the first game, but many of the newcomers showed they should have been there in the first place.
To be fair, it was also a case of once bitten, twice shy because the Sharks were much better prepared for the intensity of the Lions, who were made to look human for the first time on tour.
The disgruntled face of coach Warren Gatland in the stands said it all as his team fumbled and bumbled as the Sharks upped their intensity from the first game.
The Sharks were in the Lions’ faces and forced the errors and the home team’s four first-half tries all were from counter-attacks following mistakes by the Lions.
The Lions traded blows on the scoreboard with four tries of their own to tie up the score at 26-26 at half-time. Unquestionably, Gatland would have revved his stunned charges at the break, but at the same time, the Sharks came out after half time with a genuine belief that they could beat the Lions in over a century of trying.
For the Sharks, fullback Anthony Volmink had enjoyed a blinder with two tries but their best player had been the energetic Hendrikse, who was a livewire in setting the pace for his team while his clever anticipation had ensured a 14-point turnaround when he intercepted with the Lions heavily on the attack and scampered 60m for a try.
So what happened just after halftime was desperately disappointing …
Dumb ass of the week award goes to ….. pic.twitter.com/eydBV4RrSa— Brett Igoe (@brettruganalyst) July 10, 2021
Left wing Thaakir Abrahams had nailed the Sharks’ fourth when he was on the end of a neat grubber by flyhalf Lionel Cronje.
The Lions’ first-half tries were courtesy of forward rumbles (Jamie George and Tadgh Beirne) and two straightforward finishes for wing Duhan van der Merwe and centre Chris Harris.
After Hendrikse’s banishment to the bin, there would be a fifth try for the Sharks, a deserved reward for the effervescent Werner Kok, but otherwise it was one-way traffic, with the Lions scoring eight in the second period.
Sharks: Tries: Anthony Volmink (2), Thaakir Abrahams, Jaden Hendrikse, Werner Kok. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (3).
Lions: 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).