Sublime and ridiculous from Goosen as Bulls douse Dragons’ fire, Lions thrashed

Johan Goosen created the opening Bulls try against the Dragons with a thrilling break, but also missed several penalty kicks to touch. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Johan Goosen created the opening Bulls try against the Dragons with a thrilling break, but also missed several penalty kicks to touch. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Published Jan 6, 2023


Cape Town – It took them all of 65 minutes, but the Bulls eventually doused the Dragons’ fire to score the bonus-point try in a 29-14 United Rugby Championship victory in Newport on Friday night.

The much-needed triumph snapped a three-game losing streak for the Pretoria side, who found their grunt upfront and scored some sparkling touchdowns.

But they made heavy weather of it in the first half at Rodney Parade, where their physical dominance should have secured the result.

A combination of unforced errors and defensive mistakes combined to keep the Welsh outfit in the game.

Despite the late withdrawal of flyhalf Chris Smith due to a cold – which also kept coach Jake White in his hotel room – the Bulls dominated the opening quarter and rumbled into a 17-0 lead after just 16 minutes.

Smith’s replacement, Johan Goosen, mixed the sublime with the ridiculous with a typically mercurial display.

Goosen sparked the opening try with a thrilling line-break from the back before finding Kurt-Lee Arendse, who had enough pace to dot down in the fourth minute.

The Bulls front row of Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith enjoyed a feast in the scrums, where they drilled their Dragons counterparts Aki Seiuli, Bradley Roberts and Chris Coleman.

Goosen added a three-pointer from the kicking tee to make it 10-0, and things went from bad to worse for the home side when scrumhalf Lewis Jones slapped the ball into touch in-goal, and was penalised with a yellow card, while referee Mike Adamson also awarded a penalty try to the Bulls.

At 17-0 up, the visitors should have finished off the game by halftime, but instead, they allowed the Dragons to launch a fightback.

The Welsh club produced a clever lineout move at the front for hooker Roberts to force his way over in the 25th minute, and then in a bizarre sequence, Goosen missed touch from four consecutive penalties.

The last of those eventually led to a Dragons lineout from a 50-22 kick into touch, and centre Max Clark slid in at the left corner after a long pass from captain Steff Hughes.

Suddenly the Bulls’ lead was reduced to just three points at 17-14, and then they wasted yet another attacking opportunity just before the break when a promising lineout drive broke up, and they conceded a penalty for obstruction.

Dragons flyhalf Sam Davies’ early second-half penalty hit the crossbar that would have levelled matters at 17-17, and that proved to be costly.

The Bulls went back to their earlier tactic of running hard at the defence, with the likes of Harold Vorster, Cyle Brink and Elrigh Louw prominent.

The forwards continued to annihilate the Dragons scrum, and the defensive wall crumbled when Vorster charged in off another set-piece in the 60th minute to stretch the lead to 10 points.

As if they hadn’t suffered enough, the Dragons saw Bismarck du Plessis trot on in the final quarter, and the veteran hooker grabbed the bonus-point try by scoring off a maul from his own lineout throw-in with 15 minutes to go.

* In the other URC match involving an SA team on Friday night, the Lions of Johannesburg were thrashed 33-3 by Munster at Musgrave Park in Cork.

Dragons v Bulls Points-Scorers

Dragons 14 – Tries: Bradley Roberts, Max Clark. Conversions: Sam Davies (2).

Bulls 29 – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Penalty Try, Harold Vorster, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalty: Goosen (1).

Munster v Lions Points-Scorers

Munster 33 – Tries: Scott Buckley (2), Jack O’Donoghue, Paddy Patterson, Liam Coombes. Conversions: Ben Healy (4).

Lions 3 – Penalty: Jordan Hendrikse (1).