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Ken Borland


Jake grateful his team didn’t just resort to terrible kicks straight down the field

Posted on November 01, 2022 by Ken

The Lions are a really tough side to break down at home, so Bulls coach Jake White was understanding of his team’s problems in managing their attacking ball, and grateful that they didn’t just resort to terrible kicks straight down the field from their own half in their United Rugby Championship opener at Ellis Park at the weekend.

The Bulls eventually won comfortably enough, 31-15, but that scoreline does not reflect how competitive the Lions were. The scores were level at 15-15 with half-an-hour to go, and the Bulls needed a trio of Chris Smith penalties to keep the home side at bay, before a late maul try by replacement hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels bumped up their score even further.

One could argue that the Bulls allowed the Lions back into the game through some ambitious game-management that saw them largely spurn kicking from the back. But White was pleased with the attacking intent shown by his new-look backline.

“I have no doubt the Lions targeted this game and we always knew it would be tough, it is always tough to win here,” White said after the match. “The Lions have their own style, they are a difficult side to break down and get rhythm on attack against.

“Our attack started well and the cohesion looked good enough, but as the game unfolded we left a few points out there. We conceded six penalties in the last eight minutes of the first half.

“In some cases we over-played, forced things, in our own half, but I don’t want them to just kick the ball down the field. I want us to feel comfortable keeping the ball.

“It was the first time this backline had played together and over time it will come right, the ability to transfer pressure into points, the understanding of the space at the back at times,” White said.

In any case, an away win when a team like Munster lost on the road and Leinster very nearly suffered an upset at lowly Zebre, will sooth any concerns White has.

“An away win is a massive bonus, you have to get a couple to do well in this competition. I enjoyed the way we showed composure.

“At 15-3 up you think you can let your hair down and play a bit, and then suddenly it’s 15-15 with 30 minutes to go. You don’t really want to bring your bench on when you’re up against it.

“But the bench came on, they were able to get cohesive, and they won that area this afternoon. You’re obviously not going to be that cohesive from Day One.

“But once we understand how to create pressure, wave-after-wave of it, then we can create that uncertainty in the opposition,” White said.

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