Munster's better execution proves too much against ragged Bulls

20 April 2024 - 19:32
By Stuart Hess
Bulls lock JF van Heerden showed plenty of vigor in his team's URC clash with Munster at Loftus on Saturday
Image: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images Bulls lock JF van Heerden showed plenty of vigor in his team's URC clash with Munster at Loftus on Saturday

Munster emerged victorious 27-22, against a Bulls team that displayed enormous vats of courage, but lacked the patience or craft to break down the Irish side’s defence in a hard-fought URC clash at Loftus on Saturday. 

Besides the positions on the log, and the significant advantage of staying at home during the playoffs, there was also no ignoring the wider perspective around what awaits in July, when the Springboks face Ireland — with one of those Tests being played at the Pretoria fortress.

The intensity and the fury with which both teams attacked the breakdowns resembled some of what may be expected in winter. The blood flowing down veteran flanker Peter O’Mahony’s face after RG Snyman’s first half try further illustrated the brutality of the contest. 

It was Munster who grabbed the initiative early, displaying some finesse to go with their muscular intent. That was an area where the Bulls in the opening 40, weren’t as efficient when they attempted to move the ball. Too often the home team tried to be fancy in the wrong areas, allowing Munster’s rapid defence to close them down and pin them deep in their own territory. 

Snyman and wing Shane Daly’s tries resulted from Munster executing better when they were in the ‘red zone.’

The Bulls cleaned up their strategy at the start of the second half, adopting a more direct approach. Those simpler endeavours reaped dividends in the form of two quick scores for Kurt-Lee Arendse — following powerful and nifty work from David Kriel — followed by hooker Johan Grobbelaar. 

Johan Goosen slotted the conversion but his next intervention would have a profoundly negative effect on the outcome for the home team. 

The tone of the second half changed when Goosen was red-carded, a decision that understandably incensed the home crowd. Besides the fact that it chalked off what would have been a bonus point try for Canaan Moodie, comparisons would have been drawn with an incident that ended the first half and saw Bulls wing Seb de Klerk go off for an HIA. 

The difference, the officials deemed, between the Goosen and Craig Casey incident from the De Klerk/Calvin Nash one, was that in the latter case, two players were going for the ball. Goosen — deceived by the replacement scrumhalf’s dummy — was upright as he attempted the tackle, with his head slamming into Casey. 

The sports lawmaker’s certainly need to provide greater clarity about what constitutes dangerous play, especially when it relates to head contact. 

Munster however were made to fight to make their man advantage count. They lacked the kind of efficiency they showed in the first half and missed several opportunities to breach the Bulls defence with poor handling. The Bulls were courageous in that period with Grobbelaar’s replacement Akker van der Merwe and the tireless Elrigh Louw hurling themselves into the fray. 

Munster would eventually make the extra man count, with Connor Murray, who battled with what appeared to be a calf injury, but needing to stay on the field because Casey couldn’t return, bursting over on the right hand side.

The Bulls own scrappiness saw them fail to get into Munster’s 22 and it will be a concern for Jake White that while his team were able to match the Irish in the physical exchanges lax decision making and a desire to try too many passes in areas not suited to such play, meant they made no further impression on the scoreboard.

Murray’s try gave Munster a crucial bonus point, which saw them swap positions with the Bulls on the table.


Bulls 22 (10): Tries — Elrigh Louw, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions — Johan Goosen (2) Penalty — Goosen

Munster 27 (17): Tries — Shane Daly, RG Snyman, John Hodnett, Conor Murray. Conversions — Jack Crowley (2). Penalty — Crowley