Given that the Bulls had won their last two matches against the Sharks and were fired up after their loss to the Stormers, it was meant to be a close United Rugby Championship derby at Kings Park on Saturday night, but the KwaZulu-Natalians produced a tremendously focused and intense performance as they blew the visitors away 47-20.
The opening quarter was tightly contested with Chris Smith and Curwin Bosch trading penalties, before the Bulls grabbed the opening try in the 19th minute. Impressive hands created space out wide for wing Canan Moodie, who regained his own chip ahead, albeit with a lucky bounce.
But then the Bulls found themselves in the eye of a storm, much of it of their own making as they were terribly ill-disciplined. Following a Bosch penalty, after prop Thomas du Toit won a turnover, that closed the gap to 9-13, the Sharks took a quick tap penalty and found space out wide, but Moodie knocked the final pass out into touch, leading to a yellow card and a penalty try.
The Sharks piled on the pressure and, with two minutes to go, flank Cyle Brink was also sent to the sin-bin after repeated Bulls’ infringements. A big Sharks scrum – an area where they held a great advantage – was followed by scrumhalf Grant Williams going one way and then the other and sniping over for the try.
By the time Bosch had converted – the resurgent flyhalf succeeded with eight of his nine kicks at goal – the halftime hooter was about to go, but referee Marius van der Westhuizen warned the Bulls twice that they could not kick the restart direct into touch.
Nevertheless, that is what Smith did and the Bulls paid a heavy price. The Sharks attacked from the scrum in the centre of the field, wing Kurt-Lee Arendse conceding a penalty for a deliberate knock-on, which allowed the Sharks into the 22. From there they earned another penalty, also kicked to touch, and a patient lineout maul saw hooker Bongi Mbonambi score. Having trailed by just three points two minutes before halftime, the Bulls were suddenly 13-30 down at the break.
The Sharks, confidence rampant, were on auto-pilot in the second half and they scored a superb try in the 51st minute to open the scoring after the break. Outside centre Lukhanyo Am popped an inside ball to wing Marnus Potgieter, who broke through before inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s quick hands sent the ball wide to fullback Boeta Chamberlain, who was stopped inside the 22 but produced a super offload for Janse van Rensburg to score.
The Bulls did respond with a fine try of their own, Moodie and Johan Goosen combining very well out wide for the fullback to score.
But the result was never in doubt as a Bosch penalty stretched the Sharks lead back to 40-20.
Moodie then ended up being red-carded, for a second yellow card, when he went fractionally high on a tackle on a dipping player. It was a harsh penalty when the Bulls wing did little wrong, and the officials ought to have paid more attention to the more dangerous neck-tackle on Arendse that followed. But because it happened later on in the same passage of play as Moodie’s small mistake, it was ignored.
The shellshocked Bulls then conceded another try after the final hooter when Janse van Rensburg snatched an intercept and dotted down under the poles.
The New Year’s celebrations at Kings Park will certainly be good.
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Sharks: Tries – Penalty try, Grant Williams, Bongi Mbonambi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2). Conversions – Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties – Bosch (4).
Bulls: Tries – Canan Moodie, Johan Goosen. Conversions – Chris Smith (2). Penalties – Smith (2).
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