Dominant Bulls blow Bristol Bears away to secure bonus-point win on the road

FILE - Elrigh Louw was one of the Bulls’ try scorers during their Champions Cup clash against Bristol Bears on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

FILE - Elrigh Louw was one of the Bulls’ try scorers during their Champions Cup clash against Bristol Bears on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 13, 2024


If ever the Bulls are accused of being a one-dimensional team, they will be able to showcase their all-encompassing display against the Bristol Bears on Saturday night as evidence of their evolution.

Despite a litany of lost possession hampering their first-half efforts, it all came together in the last 30 minutes as the men from Pretoria pulled off a 31-17 Champions Cup win at Ashton Gate to virtually ensure their passage to the round of 16.

Coach Jake White would have been a frustrated figure at halftime as he watched his team waste total scrum dominance to lead by just 10-7 as they were unable to convert their pressure into more points.

The Bulls played enterprising rugby throughout, showing a willingness to take on the Bristol defence with ball-in-hand – even from their own 22 – even though they were missing Springbok stars Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.

Devon Williams, Sebastian de Klerk and Sergeal Petersen, were worthy replacements in the back-three, with fullback Williams – who was chosen as the Player of the Match – in particular catching the eye with his running, passing and kicking skills.

Williams provided the pass assist for Petersen to score the opening try in the 15th minute, but that was as good as it got for the South Africans in the first half.

Scrumhalf Kieran Marmion hit back five minutes later with a touchdown of his own to reduce the deficit to 10-7, and a yellow card to flyhalf Johan Goosen for a deliberate knockdown didn’t help the Bulls’ cause either.

Outstanding young lock Reinhardt Ludwig was also unlucky not to be awarded a try by referee Mathieu Raynal, who felt that there wasn’t downward pressure, and the Bulls were only three points ahead at the break.

But despite losing star tighthead prop Wilco Louw to an arm injury before half-time, his replacement Khutha Mchunu, loosehead Gerhard Steenekamp and hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels continued drilling the Bristol scrum, which saw replacement home tighthead Max Lahiff receive a yellow card in the second half.

The Bulls continued to take on the Bristol defence in the second half, but wasted a second five-metre attacking lineout after they were penalised for obstruction as they tried to set up a maul.

Another thrilling counter from a tap penalty inside their own 22 saw Williams flying downfield, but the Bulls were taken into touch just short of the tryline.

But their endeavour on attack was eventually rewarded with a three-try blitz in nine minutes. The first of those came courtesy of a Harold Vorster line-break, with Wessels sending Mchunu over.

Flank Elrigh Louw then rounded off the best five-pointer of the day as the Bulls took the ball through multiple phases, stretching the Bristol defence from side to side before the No 7 reached over the line.

Wessels – who also solved his lineout-throwing issues by finding his jumpers all evening long – completed a busy display with an intercept try to secure the four-try bonus point in front of a 19 040 crowd.

Now White and his team will travel back home to take on Bordeaux at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday in order to possibly push for top spot in Pool One, depending on what happens in the other group fixtures over the next two weeks.


Bristol 17 – Tries: Kieran Marmion, Gabriel Ibitoye, Magnus Bradbury. Conversion: AJ MacGinty (1).

Bulls 31 – Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Khutha Mchunu, Elrigh Louw, Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversions: David Kriel (1), Johan Goosen (3). Penalty: Goosen (1).


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