Hendricks hat-trick keeps Bulls' top-four dream alive
MATCH REPORT: Forgotten Springbok Cornal Hendricks scored a hat-trick as the Bulls kept alive their dream of a top-four finish in the United Rugby Championship.
Hendriks scored three of his team’s six tries, as the Bulls beat Ospreys 38-31 in Swansea on Friday.
Madosh Tambwe, Chris Smith and Canan Moodie also touched down for the Bulls, while Smith also contributed eight points from the kicking tee.
The result lifts the Bulls to third with a two-point cushion over Munster and the Stormers, who travel to Leinster and the Scarlets respectively on Saturday.
Two bonus points for the Ospreys, meanwhile, mean the Scarlets must beat the Stormers to deny their west Wales rivals top spot in the Welsh Shield and a place in the Champions Cup.
Dominating possession and territory, the Bulls eased into a 12-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The home team managed to work their way back into the game and a Jac Morgan try late in the half saw Ospreys trail by just two points (10-12) at the break.
Two quick converted tries – by fullback Canan Moodie and wing Cornal Hendricks – inside the first 10 minutes after the break saw the Bulls race into a 26-10 lead and secure the bonus point.
Luke Morgan pulled a try back just short of the hour mark, but Hendricks sliced the Ospreys defence open like a can of sardines soon afterwards and got his hat-trick in the 65th minute – ending the game as a contest.
* To recap the drama, CLICK HERE!
It took the Bulls only three minutes to open the scoring, with a couple of powerful carries putting them on the front foot before an accurate pass from Zak Burger allowed Tambwe to touch down.
The Bulls extended their lead when outside-half Smith glided over the line following a period of sustained pressure from the visitors.
The Ospreys narrowed the gap a few minutes before half-time when Jac Morgan and Rhys Webb charged forward. After a couple of pick and goes by the visitors, impressive openside Morgan burrowed his way over the line for the Ospreys’ first try.
Anscombe added the extras meaning the Bulls turned around with a 13-10 lead at the interval.
But the Ospreys’ momentum got extinguished very early in the second half when former Springboks wing Hendricks sliced through their defence before drawing in the final defender to put Moodie over.
And the 34-year-old was soon celebrating his own try as he showed tremendous pace to run in unopposed from 35 metres out.
However, the Ospreys refused to throw in the towel and pulled a try back with a terrific finish from flying wing Luke Morgan at the far right-hand corner thanks to a well-timed grubber kick from Anscombe, who converted from the touchline.
Hendricks scored his second try when he brushed aside a weak tackle from George North to take the game further away from the Ospreys.
He then claimed a well-deserved hat-trick after Moodie gathered a loose kick from Michael Collins before releasing the centre, who ran in from his own half.
The result looked like giving the Scarlets added hope of overhauling the Ospreys at the top of the Welsh Shield until the hosts struck for two late tries as Parry snuck over before Luke Morgan intercepted a pass to run in unopposed from 60 metres out, meaning only a win will do for Dwayne Peel’s men on Saturday.
Player of the match
Only one man was walking away with the Player of the Match medal in Swansea, and that was hat-trick hero Hendricks.
The centre also made more clean breaks (3), beat more defenders (8) and gained more metres (101) than anyone else on the pitch, as well as completing more successful carries (6) than anybody else in a Bulls jersey.
Play of the match
Hendricks’ third try was arguably the pick of the bunch.
Moodie gathered a loose kick before releasing Hendricks to run in unopposed from inside his own half.
Tries: J Morgan, L Morgan 2, Parry
Cons: Anscombe 4
For the Bulls
Tries: Tambwe, Smith, Moodie, Hendricks 3
Cons: Smith 4
Ospreys: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Harri Morgan, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Mat Protheroe.
Bulls: 15 Canan Moodie, 14 David Kriel, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Izak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Juan Mostert, 23 Stedman Gans.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Jason Bessant (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)