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Ken Borland


Bulls beat Benetton, but performance not good enough to muzzle critics

Posted on January 09, 2023 by Ken

It was perhaps even tougher than coach Jake White expected but the Bulls managed to end their tour on a winning note as they beat Benetton 44-22 in their United Rugby Championship match in Treviso on Friday night, but their performance was still not good enough to muzzle their critics.

The Bulls were a puzzle in the first half, showing occasional glimpses of promise but being unable to sustain pressure for long due to unforced errors. Defensively they also failed to contain a physical Benetton team that also attacked with purpose and width.

Were it not for the Bulls managing to stifle Benetton at the breakdown, where Marcell Coetzee led the way in winning numerous turnovers, helped by Bismarck du Plessis and Marco van Staden, the home side would have been much further ahead than 9-3 at halftime.

The Bulls started brightly in the second half, strong driving play by the forwards earning flyhalf Chris Smith a penalty and then a superb carry by flank Van Staden had defenders hanging off him, scrumhalf Embrose Papier was quick to the ball, sniped and broke through and lock Ruan Nortje was up in support as ever for the try.

A 13-12 lead became 20-12 when eighthman Elrigh Louw plunged over for a try from close range, but Benetton were back in front 22-20 by the hour mark as scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage orchestrated a clinical dissection of the Bulls defence for flank Manuel Zuliani to score.

It took a moment of good fortune to shift the momentum as the Bulls escaped sustained pressure inside their 22 when the ball mysteriously popped out on their side. They swept upfield and Smith kicked a penalty to put them back in front 23-22.

Morne Steyn then came on to ensure the Bulls dominated territory in the final quarter, kicking the ball into the corners and the maul was able to set a solid platform. The veteran flyhalf also slotted his conversions from tight angles.

In the last 10 minutes, the Bulls scored three ties as replacement hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels tidied up well at a five-metre lineout to score, just managing to stay in touch, man of the match Coetzee scored a well-deserved try and Stravino Jacobs rounded off a breakaway in the final minute.

Scorers

Benetton TrevisoTry: Manuel Zuliani. Conversion: Tomas Albornoz. Penalties: Albornoz (5).

BullsTries: Ruan Nortje, Elrigh Louw, Jan-Hendrick Wessels, Marcell Coetzee, Stravino Jacobs. Conversions: Chris Smith (2), Morne Steyn (3). Penalties: Smith (3).

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