Lizo Gqoboka scored the Bulls’ try. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Gallo Images)
The Bulls aren’t doing their reputation as South Africa’s foremost side justice after succumbing to a second succesive defeat in the United Rugby Championship, a 34-7 reverse to Connacht in Galway on Friday night.
It was a hugely frustrating outing for Jake White’s charges, who should carry the blame for some truly indifferent moments, particularly when defending the fringes of the breakdown as well as a lack of incision on attack.
Some wayward tactical kicking, notably from scrumhalf Zak Burger also didn’t help the Bulls’ cause.
However, it would be an injustice not to point out that they had all their days dealing with a referee in Ben Blain who, frankly, seemed to operate with two sets of rules.
AS IT HAPPENED | Connact v Bulls
The men from Loftus were continually pinged for sealing off their carriers at the breakdown and not rolling away, while their hosts weren’t scrutinised for streaking through rucks and taking out Bulls defenders.
Talking of obstruction, the Bulls couldn’t buy the benefit of the doubt of Blain in conceding twice from such an infringement, while Connacht winger Mack Hanson’s try – the home side’s third on the night – was marred by prop Lizo Gqoboka being impeded by lock Oison Dowling, preventing him from at least making an attempt to stop the young flyer.
Illustrating the chaos was the fact that the visitors probably deserved to concede that score on the basis of a really poor kick by Burger.
But the reality is that, in the absence of a really viable avenue to address refereeing inconsistencies, the Bulls (and the rest of South Africa) will have to find a way to adapt to the northern hemisphere’s interpretations.
It all started so well for them, Burger exploiting a gap on the fringes of the ruck in the 2nd minute and providing enough momentum for Gqoboka to give a nice step before muscling his way over from close range.
That would be the last time the Bulls troubled the scorers.
Connacht, initially hamstrung by their own poor decision-making and some wild passing, found their feet in the 17th minute when an impressive maul – poorly stifled by the Bulls – saw fullback Tiernan O’Halloran dive over a few phases later.
The Bulls were lucky to survive when some slick handling on the counter led to a try that was ruled out for a marginal forward pass.
Forced progressively onto the back foot, White’s troops were fortunate to go into half-time only 7-10 behind, but centre Tom Daly’s score early in the second half and Hanson’s controversial score knocked the stuffing out of the Bulls’ effort.
They simply couldn’t find a way out of their half and, rather surprisingly, lacked the tactical awareness to revert to a more pragmatic game-plan that they actually play so well.
Instead, they forced play too much and the hosts, smelling blood, pounced with a further two tries, sealing a bonus point that, despite their inherent advantage in terms of the refereeing, was deserved.
Connacht – (10) 34
Try: Tiernan O’Halloran, Tom Daly (2), Mack Hanson, Tom Farrell
Conversions: Jack Carty (3)
Bulls – (7) 7
Try: Lizo Gqoboka
Conversion: Johan Goosen