It left the Reds 1-4 ahead of their trip to face the defending champion Crusaders, last weekend’s historic 64-5 defeat of the Sunwolves a distant memory.
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Thorn said O’Connor, replaced by Isaac Lucas after 50 minutes, may have sprained his ankle but was hoping it was only a minor concern.
Wins this weekend against foreign sides to the NSW Waratahs (five points) and Melbourne Rebels (eight) also hurt the Reds (seven), who missed a chance to make ground on the conference-leading Brumbies (13).
Thorn had hoped his side could match the highly-fancied South Africans and they did in the first 40 minutes, but just weren’t able to show it on the scoreboard.
His men had all the ball and earned nine penalties that put them in prime position to strike.
But, four times from line-outs and another from their usually dominant scrum, they coughed up possession.
“At Super Rugby level you can’t waste those sort of chances,” Thorn said.
“They executed when they needed to do and we didn’t.”
Tries to O’Connor and Taniela Tupou in the first and second half were also overturned and the Sharks made them pay behind Curwin Bosch’s supreme boot and Lukhanyo Am’s intercept try.
Conversely, Jock Campbell struggled off the tee, missing two conversions and spraying several field kicks, while O’Connor was also ineffective by foot.
The Reds’ scrum was slowly worn down by the Sharks too and Thorn knows they’ve got plenty of work today before Friday’s steep ask.
“The best team in comp for last three years, so from our end nothing to lose there,” he said of their next challenge.
“We’ll keep working … they’re a world-class side and we’ll be throwing our all into it looking for a win.”
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