Sharks embarrass slumping Lions 42-5 in Super Rugby

JOHANNESBURG — The Sharks embarrassed the Lions 42-5 and six tries to one in Super Rugby to go second overall on Friday.

The Sharks scored four tries in the first half and were 25-0 up at halftime away at the finalists from the last three seasons, who appear unlikely to match those highs this year.

Winger Makazole Mapimpi scored a double and flanker Jacques Vermeulen and center Lukhanyo Am also went over as the Sharks smothered the Lions in the first half-hour at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Replacements Thomas du Toit and Aphelele Fassi added tries late in the second half as the Lions bungled a series of chances to slip to a third loss in seven matches this season.

The Lions' only points came in the last 10 minutes with a try by replacement winger Sylvian Mahuza. The Sharks still had time to reply through Fassi before the end.

Springboks and Sharks prop Tendai Mtawarira had a big game with a series of charging runs and powerful tackles in his record-breaking 157th Super Rugby appearance. He overtook Adriaan Strauss as South Africa's most capped Super Rugby player.

The Sharks and Lions both have 4-3 records but the Sharks have three more bonus points. They now lead the South African conference and are three points behind overall leaders the Crusaders.

The Crusaders, the two-time defending champions, play the ACT Brumbies on Saturday. The third-placed Melbourne Rebels can go above the Sharks and second if they beat the Sunwolves.

In a match earlier Friday that exposed the weakness of that New Zealand conference this season, the Hurricanes beat the Highlanders 31-28. The lead changed hands three times as both teams attacked at every opportunity but neither established a solid platform.

In New Zealand, All Blacks backrower Ardie Savea scored two tries for the Hurricanes against the Highlanders and center Ngani Laumape scored the last try in the 66th minute, finally tipping the match.

The teams were separated by only three points for the last 15 minutes and the Highlanders were on the attack at the end, but the Hurricanes, down to 14 men for the last minute, managed to defend a series of lineout drives to clinch their win.

"To come down here and win against a very good Highlanders team, I think 17 in a row down here ... for us as a young group of men was very important," Hurricanes captain T.J. Perenara said. "We put ourselves under pressure for long parts of that game and especially towards the end of the game."

Backrower Shannon Frizell scored the first try for the Highlanders after 19 minutes but the Hurricanes immediately responded through Perenara to tie the score at 7-7.

The Highlanders went ahead again through Ash Dixon but Savea's first try, from a 70-meter intercept, locked things up again at 14-14.

Beauden Barrett nudged the Hurricanes ahead with a 44th-minute penalty but tries to scrumhalf Kayne Hammington and flanker James Lentjes gave the Highlanders a 28-17 lead before Savea and Laumpe turned it around.

Also, the Queensland Reds beat the Stormers 24-12 in Brisbane, Australia. The teams were tied without scoring after the first half — the first scoreless opening 40 minutes in six years in Super Rugby.

But Stormers captain Siya Kolisi's sin-binning gave the Reds the opening they needed to post three second-half tries.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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