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Ruthless Bulls march on with solid win over Connacht

MATCH REPORT: The Bulls stamped their authority in their first United Rugby Championship game back at Loftus Versfeld when they disposed of Connacht in searing heat by 53-27 on Saturday.

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Connacht got out of the blocks fast, immediately on the attack and the Bulls, with their rush defence, conceded a penalty in the fifth minute which gave the visitors the first points of the match.

Minutes later it was the Bulls’ Jaco van der Walt that sent a three pointer through the uprights.

The Bulls visited the white wash after 12 minutes of play when hooker Akker van der Merwe went over, receiving the ball from captain Ruan Nortje in a well-worked move.

This was followed up by a converted try by Elrigh Louw to take the Bulls well into an early lead by 15-3.

Connacht got their first try just before halftime when Diarmuid Kilgallen powered his way over in the corner to edge his side closer, the Bulls at that stage leading 25-13 after captain Nortje also crossed for another five points.

And then it was Willie le Roux’s turn to score an easy try for the first time in a Bulls jersey on debut, converted by Van der Walt.

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The homeside had a comfortable lead at halftime (32-13) and it was clear that the heat in Pretoria was having an effect on the visitors.

Five minutes into the second half the Bulls were reduced to 14 men when Van der Merwe was shown a yellow card for cynical play.

This immediately gave the visitors the upper hand with a line-out in the Bulls 22, edging closer to the try-line looking for try number two, which came after a pick and go.

Connacht flyhalf Jack Carty added the extras and it was a 12 point game after close to 50 minutes of play, the Bulls leading 32-20.

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The experienced Le Roux found his feet in the Bulls set-up with some pin-point accurate kicking while his inspirational talks among the leadership group clearly proved valuable.

With just under an hour of play already out of the way, and with 14 men, the Bulls’ Nizaam Carr dove over for their sixth try of the match.

The conversion was good and the homeside stretched their lead to 39-20.

The Bulls’ seventh try came by way of big Jan-Hendrik Wessels running down the sideline, ball in one hand, the pass to Kriel was knocked down by a Connacht player but Kriel just fell on it to stretch their lead to 46-20.

Chris Smith, who replaced Van der Walt late in the second half, scored a great try after some innovative interplay by the backs and forwards that saw the Bulls comfortable in the drivers’ seat by 53-20.

Connacht worked hard to gain ascendancy, but the Bulls’ defence remained resilient. A kick for touch after Van Staden was trapped behind a maul, was their last ditch effort to add to their spoils.

A tap and go in front of the uprights saw Shamus Hurley-Langton dive over bodies to get the ball down for their third try, not pretty but effective.

Man of the Match: The award goes to Jaco van der Walt with a near perfect kicking performance while he also combined well with scrumhalf Zak Burger.

Scorers:

For the Bulls:
Tries: Van der Merwe, Louw, Le Roux, Nortje, Burger, Carr, Kriel, Smith
Cons: Van der Walt 5, Smith 1
Pens: Van der Walt 2

For Connacht:
Tries: Kilgallen, McElroy, Hurley-Langton
Cons: Carty 2, Hanrahan
Pens: Carty 2

Yellow card: Akker van der Merwe (Bulls – 45’ cynical)

Bulls: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 David Kriel, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Reinhardt Ludwig, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Replacements: 16 Simphiwe Matanzima, 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Canan Moodie

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 David Hawkshaw, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Colm Reilly, 8 Sean Jansen, 7 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 6 Oisin Dowling, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Darragh Murray, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tadgh McElroy, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Sam Illo, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Conor Oliver

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Paul Mente (South Africa); Dylen November (South Africa)
TMO: Andrea Piardi (Italy)

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