PRETORIA - Another week, another defeat. That’s the sad story for the Bulls this season but this time round they put up a gallant fight while going down 28-12 against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
After falling to their shortcomings in the four matches so far this season, the Bulls showed a great deal of endeavour and intent against a Chiefs side that have now won all five of their matches.
It would have been a relief for the Bulls coaching staff and throng of supporters to finally see their team come good even though it was merely for an hour and not the entire game.
They put on an authoritative showing dominating the possession and territory stakes, especially in the first half, but their biggest failure was their inability to convert pressure into maximum points.
The Chiefs were constantly on the back foot in the opening stanza succumbing to some clever tactical kicking from Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard while the Bulls also showed good intent with ball in hand.
However, they struggled to find the fatal blow after several phases of giving the ball some air while mixing it with some structured play from line-outs and recycled possession from the breakdown.
“It happened three times and I think at one stage we had like 64 percent territory and we were good on attack but every time we got down there they opted to give away a penalty and we could only get three points from it,” said Bulls coach Nollis Marais after yesterday’s tightly-contested encounter.
“They should have been yellow-carded but I think we should also have used our opportunities better, though. Definitely a much improved attacking side.”
While the Bulls were able to capitalise on some of their opportunities with Pollard slotting over three penalties to give the visitors a 9-3 lead at half-time, they capitulated with ease when the Chiefs upped the pressure later on and were able to put together a few phases of their own with ball in hand.
In the space of 20 minutes, the hosts were able to take the lead for the first time in the game through a Shaun Stevenson try before taking control of proceedings when All Black fullback Damian McKenzie scored a well-worked try from a scrum.
It has often been such soft moments, be it in the first or second half in past games, that cost them dearly and it was no different in Hamilton yesterday as the visitors’ chances of getting their second win of the season faded away late in the game as they conceded possession cheaply at the breakdown.
“There were too many crucial mistakes from us. We lost our own line-out and they scored from that and it gave them momentum and belief. Unfortunately, if you have momentum and belief you are difficult to stop.
“We were good last year in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby with turnover ball. The Chiefs were excellent by stopping us on the try-line, they were good at the breakdown and in certain areas we need to improve on,” Marais said.
The Bulls have one more game on their short but so-far disastrous tour and that is against the Sunwolves in Tokyo over the weekend.
After losing to the Blues and Chiefs, the game against the Sunwolves is one they will need to win if they are to still have a chance of doing something special this season.