Burger double helps Bulls beat Connacht
MATCH REPORT: The Bulls recorded their third consecutive United Rugby Championship win of the season, beating Connacht 28-14 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
The Bulls outscored the visitors four tries to two.
The hosts dominated proceedings, taking a 21-0 lead at the break.
*To recap all the action CLICK HERE!!!
Connacht had plenty of promising moments, but they could not recover from a nightmare start as fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse and scrumhalf Zak Burger scored tries during the opening 10 minutes at Loftus Versfeld.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen converted both touchdowns, and he also added the extras to tries from Marcell Coetzee and a second by Burger, with prop Jack Aungier and flyhalf David Hawkshaw claiming late consolations for Connacht, and Hawkshaw adding two conversions.
The Bulls showcased their enviable forward power after just two minutes when hooker Johan Grobbelaar touched down following a lineout drive, but the try was disallowed for a flying wedge movement.
Connacht players were back behind the posts just five minutes later, and this time there was no reprieve after Arendse sprinted clear for a try that Goosen converted.
The visitors were then shredded in defence by a blistering Bulls counter-attack before Burger scored from close range and Goosen added the extras for a 14-point advantage.
Connacht looked to regroup, and their cause was helped by a yellow card for Bulls flank Marco van Staden, but they could not reduce the deficit despite some attacking in-roads made by Ireland international wing Mack Hansen.
In terms of territory and possession, Connacht were firmly in the game, yet they were undone again just before half-time.
The Bulls’ patience was rewarded as skipper Coetzee powered over for his team’s third try, with Goosen’s conversion opening up a 21-0 interval lead.
Connacht fell further behind just minutes into the second period as the Bulls clinched a try bonus-point when lock Ruan Nortje surged clear in open play and sent Burger over for his second score.
There was no way back now for the visitors, and it appeared a case of damage limitation as the Bulls threatened further scores.
The Bulls were reduced to 14 players for a second time when Italian referee Andrea Piardi yellow-carded Goosen following head-on-head contact with Connacht scrumhalf Kieran Marmion.
Bulls’ replacement hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels was then sin-binned for a late challenge, and Connacht capitalised through Aungier’s try that Hawkshaw converted, before Hawkshaw added the extras to his own touchdown during a strong finish.
Man of the Match
South Africa international Arendse, equally at home as a fullback or on the wing, possesses lightning pace, and he was the one player Connacht struggled to handle every time he saw space.
Scored his team’s opening try and is in imperious form as part of a Bulls team already looking capable of mounting a major title challenge.
Play of the match
It came after just seven minutes of a game when Connacht often gave as good as they got.
While much is rightly made of the Bulls’ heavyweight pack, they also have backs of game-breaking quality.
Arendse needed the slightest hint of a chance to prosper, capitalising on Connacht’s midfield hesitancy to gather in a flash and sprint over from 50 metres.
Tries: Arendse, Burger 2, Coetzee
Cons: Goosen 4
Tries: Aungier, Hawkshaw
Cons: Hawkshaw 2
Yellow cards: Marco van Staden (Bulls, 15 – foul play, lifting the player horizontal), Johan Goosen (Bulls, 51 – foul play, head-on-head collision); Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Bulls, 68 – late tackle)
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 David Kriel, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Izak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Marcel Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp..
Replacements: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Reinhardt Ludwig, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Connacht: 15 Oran McNulty, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 David Hawkshaw, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Oisín Dowling, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Byron Ralston, 23 Ciarán Booth.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (Italy)