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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Bulls fade away in 47-14 URC loss to Leinster

The Bulls started the game well, leading 14-12 at half-time, but they failed to keep up with Leinster's quality in the second half.

Leinster proved why they are regarded as one of the best clubs in Europe as they crushed the Bulls 47-14 on Friday night in the United Rugby Championship at the RDS Arena in Dublin.

The atmosphere before the kick-off had the real feel of a big game; it was as if it was a playoff as 16,892 flocked to the RDS Arena. The stadium was buzzing and the Leinster fans created an intimidating environment for the visitors from Pretoria from the first minute to the last.

They saw their side score seven tries and collect the full five points on offer as they kept their place at the top of the URC points table with 54 points. The Bulls did not get any points away from home, remaining in second spot with 45 points.

Despite losing with a big score there will be positives and lessons taken from the game by Bulls director of rugby Jake White. The match was a tale of two halves for the Bulls; excellent in the opening stanza and poor in the second.

Good start

The Bulls’ game plan was clear from the onset; they wanted to involve their big forward pack in the early stages of the match so they could impose themselves physically. 

The loose trio of Marco van Staden, Elrigh Louw and Marcell Coetzee saw a lot of the ball, making big carries and trying to set a platform for scrumhalf Embrose Papier to distribute to the backline. The Bulls also had the beating of their hosts at scrum time with Gerhard Steenekamp troubling tighthead Michael Ala’alatoa.

On the attack front, the Bulls struggled to get going and the backline was put under pressure by Leinster’s rush defence, which underlined the influence of South Africa’s defence guru Jacques Nienaber.

The Bulls’ period of dominance saw them lead 6-0 thanks to Johan Goosen kicking in two penalties.

Leinster, who had a field full of Ireland internationals, showed their quality on attack three minutes after the 15-minute mark, getting their first score. 

Leinster’s power attack

They recycled the ball well and it reached fullback Jordan Larmour. He pierced through the Bulls’ defence before offloading to Josh van der Flier who ran a support line as he dotted down for a converted try. The Dublin side showed why they have the best lineout variation as they scored a maul try through Ronan Kelleher.

The Bulls weathered the storm as Leinster had the momentum at that stage of the game. They did well to limit any damage and when they had a chance to attack, they took it. 

Goosen got into space and ran into the Leinster half before spreading it to Kurt-Lee Arendse who ran to the tryline. In the aftermath of the try, Leinster captain Luke McGrath got a yellow card as he clashed with Arendse’s head when he tackled with a dangerous technique.

The Bulls took control of the last stages of the half and kicked in another penalty through Goosen to lead 14-12 at half-time.

Bulls dominated by Leinster

The home side started the second half with supreme intent, pinning the Bulls in their half. They scored two converted tries through James Lowe and Michael Milne. With both tries, they showed their attacking prowess, keeping the ball through multiple phases. 

The Bulls were also at fault for missing tackles, something they will have to work on ahead of the playoffs.

With the score at 26-14 after 50 minutes, the Bulls looked deflated and looked to their replacements to try and change the game, but it was Leinster’s substitutes that made a more telling impact. The likes of Ireland internationals Tadhg Furlong and Jamison Gibson-Park helped Leinster maintain dominance.

The Bulls were shell-shocked in the second stanza; their execution was not good when they were in the red zone. They were not accurate with their mauling, an aspect of their game that’s been good this season, and they lost the battle at the breakdown. 

Leinster’s defence was also rock solid, refusing to be breached by the Bulls as they looked to get back in the contest. Three converted tries for Leinster’s Dan Sheehan, Jack Conan, and Liam Turner saw the hosts run away with a 47-14 win.


Bulls: Tries – Kurt-Lee Arendse; Penalties – Johan Goosen (3)

Leinster: Tries – Josh van der Flier, Ronan Kelleher, James Lowe, Michael Milne, Dan Sheehan, Jack Conan, Liam Turner; Conversions – Harry Byrne (3), Ross Byrne (3)

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