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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter


URC result: Bulls too strong for Benetton in 56-35 win

The Bulls managed to secure their 12th win in this season's United Rugby Championship thanks to the victory over Benetton.


The Bulls empathically put away Italian side Benetton 56-35 in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld.

The win saw the Bulls move to second place on the URC points table with 61 points. Things could change on the log with Glasgow Warriors and Leinster still to play later on the weekend.

Nonetheless, the Bulls got the job done in a must-win game and secured their place in the URC playoffs. 

The task for the Bulls heading into this game was to see if they could play well for 80 minutes and not allow the game to get away from them. Another task for the team was to build good momentum as they are headed into the playoff stages and it’s fair to say they accomplished both of those tasks.

Powerful start by the Bulls

The Bulls had a measured start to the game, playing on the front foot with authority and precision. They were solid at the set-pieces, which laid a foundation for them to have control of the game. Their great start to the match was capped off by a Canan Moodie converted try.

The Bulls moved away from their usual style of running rugby and, instead, they reverted to their traditional form of being physical and taking charge up front. 

Considering Benetton have big forwards in their setup, that was the right approach from the Pretoria team. The Bulls won the physical battle in the early stages of the game, which translated to their defence being firm and credit must go to Bulls’ defence coach Gary Gold because when their defence is firm, it doesn’t look breakable. 

The home side was excellent in how they were able to recycle the ball among the forwards and backs. Most of their entries into the Benetton half were well coordinated and resulted in them coming back with points. This could be seen when they scored a converted try through David Kriel in the 17th minute and then Kurt-Lee Arendse added another five points two minutes later. 

Kurt-Lee Arendse on form

Special mention must go to Arendse, who won the man-of-the-match gong, as he is hitting top form at the right time for the Bulls. The Springbok international is proving to be a leader on the pitch with his performances and interventions on the field.

The Bulls secured their bonus point in the 25th minute when captain Ruan Nortje crossed over the line for a converted try after Willie le Roux beat the Benetton defence with great stepping to create a clear path for him.

At the half-hour mark, Benetton registered their first points through an Onsi Ratave try with South Africa’s Rhyno Smith kicking the extras. The two sides then traded converted tries in the last five minutes before the break; the Bulls went in first with Moodie, with Benetton responding with a Gianmarco Lucchesi touchdown from a rolling maul. 

The Bulls went to the interval leading 31-14. 

The lead at the break was a healthy one, however, the big question was whether the Bulls could up the ante in the second stanza?

Bulls avoid second half collapse

The second half didn’t start according to plan for the home team as Benetton got a converted try via Andy Uren to take the score to 31-21.

There was a form of anxiety or déjà vu among the Bulls faithful, after last week’s second half implosion, but that would not be the case as the Bulls scored three tries through Akker van der Merwe, Kriel and Moodie and two points from Goosen’s boot within a space of seven minutes to take the score to 48-21. 

At the start of the last quarter, the Bulls had a 27-point lead and the win essentially in the bag. Even though the result was gone, Benetton kept on fighting as they are pushing for a top-eight finish. The Italian side would get a fourth converted try through Toa Halafihi.

A Chris Smith penalty extended the Bulls’ lead to 51-28. Benetton added another try through Marco Zanon with Smith adding the conversion before Johan Grobbelaar dotted down for a 56-35 win. 

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Canan Moodie (3), David Kriel (2), Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe ; Conversions – Johan Goosen (4) ; Penalty – Chris Smith

Benetton: Tries – Onsi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Marco Zanon ; Conversions – Rhyno Smith (5)