Rugby: Rugby-Lions ease to big win on day of off-field drama


JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -The British & Irish Lions put aside a day of drama and uncertainty to comprehensively win the second game of their COVID-disrupted South African tour, crushing the Sharks 54-7 at Ellis Park on Wednesday.

Makeshift fullback Josh Adams kept up his try-scoring blitz in a Lions jersey with a hat-trick, matched by Duhan van der Merwe and there was one each for Bundee Aki and Louis Rees-Zammit.

The Lions outscored their South African opponents eight tries to one with three conversions from Owen Farrell, who was outstanding after being drafted into flyhalf at the last minute, and four from his replacement Finn Russell.

James Venter got the consolation try for the Sharks, who because of the COVID concerns in South Africa were forced to move the game from their base in Durban.

The Lions led 26-0 at halftime at an empty Ellis Park in a match that was in doubt until some 90 minutes before kick-off after two positive COVID-19 cases in the Lions camp earlier on Wednesday, forcing 12 players into isolation and necessitating eight late changes in the matchday squad.

“The guys can only be happy with the result,” said Lions captain Iain Henderson.

“We only found out 50 minutes before we left out hotel that the game was on.”

The Lions were over the try line in the third minute with Adams, followed three minutes later by a score for Van der Merwe, after a clever pass from Sam Simmonds.

Van der Merwe scored his second as a clever grubber kick from Farrell got the ball behind a high Sharks defensive line and the left winger outpaced the defence, and the fourth try went to Aki after a break from the scrum to set up a pick and drive.

The Sharks, without nine players in the Springbok camp for the test series this month, struggled to handle the Lions’ pressure but looked better after the break and scored first through flanker Venter.

But they continued to commit simple mistakes, which the Lions were quick to capitalise on.

First Adams, chasing a sloppy home cleanout, scored in the 57th minute, and Rees-Zammit got his try when Adams picked up a speculative Sharks’ kick and turned defence into attack as he put away his Welsh compatriot down the right wing.

Van der Merwe sped away to complete his hat-trick six minutes from time, matched by Adams minutes later. He now has nine tries his in three Lions games.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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