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Five-star Connacht run wasteful Bulls ragged in United Rugby Championship clash

Connacht's Mack Hansen scores a try during the United Rugby Championship match against the Bulls. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock via BackpagePix

Connacht's Mack Hansen scores a try during the United Rugby Championship match against the Bulls. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock via BackpagePix

Published Oct 1, 2021


Cape Town - The Bulls learnt a harsh lesson about converting pressure into points on Friday night as two tries in four minutes saw Connacht grab the initiative to set up a 34-7 United Rugby Championship bonus-point victory in Galway.

Jake White’s team had ample opportunities to put points on the board with the wind behind their backs in the first half, but they only had a second-minute try by Lizo Gqoboka to show for their dominance in territory and possession.

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Those seven points was not nearly enough to hold off a marauding Connacht attack, and despite several passages of tigerish defence on their own tryline, the Bulls’ white-jersey wall was eventually brought down.

Captain Marcell Coetzee’s side made a dream start as the Bulls kept the ball through a number of phases, with the tight forwards playing their part too, before scrumhalf Zak Burger broke the line.

The ball went wide from Johan Goosen and Harold Vorster nearly went over, and a charging Gqoboka eventually got the touchdown.

But that was as good as it got for the men from Pretoria. They seemed to have the measure of Connacht in the first half, with their physicality in attack and defence, and strong scrum setting the platform for front-foot possession.

Props Gqoboka and Jacques van Rooyen were both prominent, making a number of runs and hitting the rucks with venom.

However, the last pass didn’t go to hand, while the decision-making left a lot to be desired at times too. The Bulls were just not able to finish, with a knock-on, intercepted pass or a breakdown penalty relieving the pressure for the Irish province.

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Perhaps Goosen should’ve looked for a drop goal or two to add scoreboard pressure, but the Bulls No 10 kept spreading the ball wide, or took it up himself.

The Bulls lineout did function a bit better than in last week’s 31-3 defeat to Leinster in Dublin, but they still lost too many feeds on their own throw, which halted their momentum and ability to get their driving maul going.

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Connacht didn’t look like breaching the Bulls defence in the first half, though, with one-off runners easily marked by the visitors, while flyhalf Jack Carty was put under enormous pressure as the chief playmaker.

But the home team turned up the heat in the second half, having led 10-7 at the break.

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They suddenly found some spark in their attacking game, and showcased much greater fluidity and pace with ball-in-hand.

The Bulls defended their line heroically for almost five minutes, but it was almost inevitable that Connacht would score, and centre Tom Daly got over to make it 17-7 after 45 minutes.

Then the Irish team landed the knockout blow four minutes later when left wing Mack Hansen danced his way past a number of Bulls defenders to score a sensational try, although the South Africans could have felt hard done by after referee Ben Blain had TMO Andrew McMenemy check for obstruction.

Connacht lock Ultan Dillane got in the way of Gqoboka trying to get across to tackle Hansen, but the match officials felt it was not deliberate, and allowed the try to stand.

That took the wind out of the Bulls’ sails, and with the wind and rain becoming stronger in the second half, there was no way back for the visitors.

To add insult to injury, Connacht secured their four-try bonus point with a set move from a scrum, with centre Tom Farrell slicing through the Bulls backline, while centre partner Daly squeezed his way over for a second five-pointer in the last play of the match.


Connacht 34 – Tries: Tiernan O’Halloran, Tom Daly (2), Mack Hansen, Tom Farrell. Conversions: Jack Carty (3). Penalty: Carty (1).

Bulls 7 – Try: Lizo Gqoboka. Conversion: Johan Goosen (1).