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Bulls stay alive in top-two race with Moodie hat-trick

MATCH REPORT: World Cup-winning Springbok Canan Moodie scored a hat-trick as the Bulls eased to a 56-35 win over a willing Benetton in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria, on Saturday.

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Having secured their play-off spot before the start of the match, the Bulls are now chasing a top-two finish.

The nine-try bonus-point win has secured the Bulls at least a top-four finish and home ground advantage in the quarterfinals.

They play the Sharks in Durban in the final round to possibly get that top-two spot.

The Bulls looked utterly dominant for large parts of the first half, but a common disease crept into their game – momentarily lapses that allowed Benetton to get a foothold in the game.

They had the same issues after the break.

However, the Bulls always had something in reserve and managed to keep opening the gap every time Benetton looked to stage a comeback.

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“We again gave away too many soft tries,” captain Ruan Nortje said, adding: “That is the big work-on for us.”

* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!

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The Bulls got off to a perfect start – Canan Moodie getting a flat pass from Embrose Papier after a maul five metres out. Johan Goosen added the conversion – 7-0.

After a few misfires, the Bulls scored their second try in the 17th minute – some sublime handling, with Willie le Roux prominent in the playmaking role, setting up David Kriel to stroll over. Goosen made it 14-0 with the conversion.

Minutes later Kurt-Lee Arendse, coming off his left wing, scored on the right. Goosen was wide of the mark with the conversion – 19-0 at the end of the first quarter.

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With some great heads-up play, Willie le Roux sliced through a gap to put captain Ruan Nortje over for the bonus-point score. Goosen added the conversion to make it 28-0, after 27 minutes.

On the half-hour mark left wing Ignacio Mendy went over after a momentary lapse by the Bulls. South African-born fullback Rhyno Smith added the conversion, as Benetton opened their account – 7-28.

However, Moodie got his second – with flank Elrigh Louw featuring twice, once a carry-up and the second an offload. The conversion was wide, but the home team had a 31-7 lead.

There was enough time for Gianmarco Lucchesi to go around the blind from a maul. Smith added the conversion – closing the gap to 14-31 at the half-time break.

Benetton had the momentum early in the second half and after a penalty and a maul, scrumhalf Andy Uren sniped around a ruck for the visitors’ third try. Smith narrowed the gap to 21-31 just five minutes into the second half.

The Bulls hit straight back with a maul try by hooker Armand van der Merwe. Goosen hit the upright with his conversion attempt – 36-21.

Kriel got his second try as the hour mark approached – pouncing on a stray pass and using his pace to stroll over. Goosen made it 43-21 with the conversion.

Moodie got his hat-trick, Kriel giving the scoring pass after Goosen exposed the tiring Benetton defence. Kriel was off target with the conversion attempt – Goosen having been replaced – 48-21.

Benetton got their bonus-point try in the 64th minute – replacement loose forward Toa Halafihi finishing off a great counter. Smith made it 28-48 with the conversion.

Chris Smith took the Bulls beyond 50 points (51-28) with a penalty inside the final 10 minutes.

There was enough time for a try by Marco Zanon, with Smith’s conversion making it 35-51.

The win was sealed with a try by replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar – making the final score 56-35..

The scorers

For the Bulls
Tries: Moodie 3, Kriel 2, Arendse, Nortje, Van der Merwe, Grobbelaar
Cons: Goosen 4
Pen: Smith

For Benetton
Tries: Mendy, Lucchesi, Uren, Halafihi, Zanon
Cons: Smith 5

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 David Kriel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Sebastian de Klerk.

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Leonardo Marin, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Eli Snyman (captain) 4 Scott Scrafton, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Destiny Aminu, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Edoardo Iachizzi, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Marco Zanon.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa) and Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Mike Adamson (South Africa)

* Picture credit: @BlueBullsRugby

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