Sharks' red card turns thriller into British and Irish Lions romp

Pretoria (AFP) –


British and Irish Lions crushed the Sharks 71-31 in Pretoria on Saturday in a tour match that turned on the sending off of South African scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse.

A virtually third-string Sharks side were holding the visitors 26-26 until the 46th-minute red card, and the Lions took full advantage to score seven tries against 14 men.

Hendrikse struck Lions full-back Liam Williams with an elbow and English referee Wayne Barnes, after consulting briefly with the television match official, flashed a red card.

The decision turned a surprisingly close third match of the Lions tour into a romp and the visitors have scored 27 tries as they build up for a three-Test series against the Springboks from July 24.

"Massive credit to the Sharks, the way they fronted up. They really brought it to us in the first half," said Lions captain Jamie George. "The red card probably opened the game up a little much for our side."

"(In the) first half we were probably off a little bit in terms of our collisions. The main lesson we take out of it is we need a little more composure.

"A lot of their tries came off the back of our mistakes. We were playing a little bit too loose. It's better to learn that now than in a few weeks' time."

Sharks skipper and number eight Phepsi Buthelezi said: "We got the start we wanted. We put them under a lot of pressure in the first half.

"In the second half, unfortunately, there was the red card. It's very difficult to play against these guys with a red card."

Lions coach Warren Gatland has expressed concern after the feeble opposition provided by the Johannesburg Lions and the Sharks in earlier matches.

With original opponents Bulls unable to play on Saturday because of a coronavirus outbreak in the squad, the Sharks stepped in with a side showing 11 changes from that which lost heavily three days ago.

The midweek Sharks side was a virtual B team given the absence of nine stars, including Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi, who are with the national squad.

When Sharks coach Sean Everitt made wholesale changes, some pundits feared the Lions would come close to notching 100 points.

However, after an early Lions try from centre Chris Harris, the Sharks levelled through full-back Anthony Volmink, then led three times in a first half that ended with the sides deadlocked at 26-26.

That score remained until the red card, after which the Lions ran riot as they made a string of substitutions with tour captain and scrum-half Conor Murray coming off the bench for his first appearance.

Murray was sin-binned with four minutes remaining, but being reduced to 14 men at the death did not stem the appetite for tries and wing Anthony Watson got his second.

Harris, match skipper and hooker Jamie George (2), winger Duhan van der Merwe, flanker Tadhg Beirne (2), number eight Jack Conan, centre Elliot Daly, Watson (2) and flanker Tom Curry were the Lions' try scorers.

Fly-half Dan Biggar succeeded with eight conversions of varying difficulty or a 16-point personal tally.

Volmink (2), winger Thaakir Abrahams, Hendrikse and centre Werner Kok scored tries for the Sharks as fly-half Lionel Cronje converted three.