Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
7 Jun 2019
10:27 am

Bulls draw yet again in flawed Dunedin thriller

Heinz Schenk

Both them and the Highlanders in the end did well to stay in the frame, but finesse was certainly lacking.

Embrose Papier of the Bulls passes the ball during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Bulls at Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 07, 2019 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

For a second week in a row, the Bulls experienced the distinct lack of fulfillment of a draw after they tied 24-all with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.

In a game of two halves, the hosts at times ran their opponents off their feet as the Bulls’ defensive inconsistency reared its head again.

But Pote Human’s troops came out in the second half and played a familiar power game that should’ve brought more reward.

Play went on for over four minutes after the final siren as both sides desperately tried to conjure up a winning score, but that sequence also featured four three turnovers and a knock-on, illustrating how both sides wasted their opportunities.

Who was the star in this match?

The hallmark of a really classy centre is a player who makes those around him look good. The Highlanders have unearthed a player of that calibre in Rob Thompson. The inside centre was particularly influential in the first half, finding and creating space, completing nifty passes and beating defenders almost at will. He also contributed his fair share of work on defence once the Bulls started dominating the second half.

Key moments and themes

  • The Bulls’ frustratingly inconsistent defence was again a glaring weakness in this game. Notable highs the one week are followed up by wayward lows the next. While it wasn’t so evident in the second half because they had the majority of possession, the men from Loftus were lucky only to concede 19 points in the first 40 as they allowed the Highlanders oodles of space through poor one-on-one tackling. They eventually missed 34 of their 136 tackles The home side though didn’t help themselves with dodgy handling too.
  • In contrast, the Highlanders made up for their wastefulness on attack with a superb defensive performance. The Bulls could be accused of being a bit one-dimensional at times, but the hosts certainly held their own in the collisions. It was a testament to their resolve that the Bulls only crossed the whitewash once in the second half.
  • Even if the Bulls feel yet another draw is a bit deflating, they deserve plaudits again for making use of their limited scoring opportunities in the first half. Divan Rossouw was predatory in finishing off from a turnover, while centre Burger Odendaal’s break to set up lock Jason Jenkins was unexpected but timely. Had Odendaal not made contact with hooker Schalk Brits’ placing off the ball at an attacking breakdown, Jenkins would’ve finished with a brace of tries … and the Bulls with a win. Such is the margins in Super Rugby.

Point scorers:

Highlanders – Tries: Josh McKay (2), Waisake Naholo (2). Conversions: Josh Ioane (2).

Bulls – Tries: Divan Rossouw, Jason Jenkins, Jaco Visagie. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3). Penalty: Pollard.

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