HAMILTON – Bulls skipper Adriaan Strauss says soft moments in the second half cost his side dearly in their 28-12 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Bulls took a surprise 9-3 lead at half-time against the front-running New Zealand side, with the Pretoria-based team undoubtedly producing their best half of rugby this season.
With the Bulls marrying ambitious attack with determined defence, the Chiefs were thrown off their game and looked to have few answers during the opening 40 minutes.
However, the Chiefs made a mental shift at half-time and looked to play with greater patience in the second stanza, which ultimately enabled them to mount a comeback that resulted in a bonus-point win.
A defensive lapse from the Bulls first allowed winger Shaun Stevenson to score a try that sent the Chiefs back into the lead early in the second half, while soft penalties enabled Aaron Cruden to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The Bulls will also look back and lament the manner in which the Chiefs scored their match-winning second try, with a grubber through the defence ultimately creating an opportunistic try for Damian McKenzie.
After competing for large portions of the match, the Bulls had nothing to show for their efforts in Hamilton in the end, and Strauss said that was a bitter pill to swallow.
“At times we showed some nice excitement and intent on attack, but the execution at vital times and in pressure moments still wasn’t there,” said Strauss.
“We’re working on it, and now we have another game on tour to come (against the Sunwolves), and hopefully this performance will provide good preparation for that.”
Strauss conceded that a couple of poor lapses in the second half had prevented the Bulls from maintaining their momentum from the opening stanza.
“There were a few very soft moments in the second half, and although we were really in the fight, you have to perform for the full 80 minutes against a well-oiled Chiefs side. They created pressure in the second half and scored from that, so congratulations to them.”
Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden credited the mental adjustment the team made at half-time.
“Coming off a bye, we didn’t start that well, and the first 40 minutes was disappointing. But we made a mental shift, and the second 40 was for fans, who came to see an exciting brand of rugby.”