The British and Irish Lions continued to pile on the points on their tour of South Africa with what proved to be an emphatic, albeit not entirely convincing, 71-31 win over the Sharks.
There was no shortage of entertainment at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, with the Sharks more than holding their own until Jaden Hendrikse got himself sent off.
Indeed, the Lions conceded four tries in the first half – as many as they had allowed in total in their three previous games combined this year.
Yet Hendrikse's dismissal proved the turning point, with the Lions' quality shining through, though Warren Gatland – who on Saturday called up England new boy Marcus Smith due to an injury for Finn Russell – will be expecting better in defence as the Springboks series approaches.
Chris Harris skipped over for his first Lions try early on, with Dan Biggar adding the extras, but the Sharks hit back in style.
Elliot Daly's mistake resulted in Anthony Volmink charging in down the left, before Thaakir Abrahams latched onto Lionel Cronje's grubber. With a game on their hands, the Lions responded in turn – captain Jamie George going over at the culmination of a rolling maul.
The scoring did not let up, with Duhan van der Merwe dragging the Lions level again after Hendrikse had crossed at the other end.
Another Lions mistake gifted Volmink a second try, yet the Sharks' defence was equally as vulnerable and Tadhg Beirne bundled through to once more level the scores..
4 - The British & Irish Lions have conceded four tries in the first half against the @TheSharksZA - as many as they'd conceded in total in their three previous games combined this year. Leaky.— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) July 10, 2021
A moment of madness from Hendrikse soon gave the Lions an advantage, though. The Sharks scrum-half elbowed Liam Williams in the head as the full-back was tackled into touch, and after checking with the TMO, referee Wayne Barnes brandished a red card.
The Lions set about making their numerical superiority count – Jack Conan driving in before Daly extended the lead, only for Werner Kok to pounce on Conor Murray's blocked kick. However, George and Beirne doubled their tallies either side of Anthony Watson taking the Lions above 50, with Tom Curry running in their 10th try.
Murray's yellow ensured both sides would finish with 14 men, though Watson had the final say with a brilliant 50-metre break.
Sharks hold their own until Hendrikse blunder
It really was a ludicrous decision from Hendrikse, who had looked sharp in the first half, to lunge in on Williams.
The Sharks – who were thrashed 54-7 in midweek but stepped up to play the Lions again after the Bulls pulled out – presented a real challenge for the Lions before the break, but Hendrikse's rashness ultimately all-but gifted the tourists victory.
Smith stunned by late call
Harlequins fly-half Smith scored 18 points as England hammered Canada at Twickenham on Saturday, though he had little time to celebrate ahead of catching a flight out to South Africa to join up with Gatland's squad.
"I can't believe it," Smith told Channel 4. "They called me into the tunnel 10 minutes ago and I don't believe it – I was shaking, I still can't believe it, it's amazing.
"We were meant to go to the football [England v Italy in Sunday's Euro 2020 final] but I will be on the plane now. It won't sink in until I get back from the tour and I will have to pinch myself on the plane.”