Bulls earn home quarterfinal with nine-try demolition of Benetton

18 May 2024 - 16:24
By Stuart Hess
Bulls lock Ruan Nortje was one of the stand out performers for the home team in their win against Bennetton at Loftus.
Image: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images Bulls lock Ruan Nortje was one of the stand out performers for the home team in their win against Bennetton at Loftus.

The Bulls secured a home quarterfinal with a thunderous nine-try display in their URC clash against Benetton at Loftus on Saturday, though concerns will remain over their defence. 

The Bulls beat the Italian club 58-35, but conceded five tries, which will not have pleased them so close to the playoffs. 

However they achieved their primary objective — to earn a home playoff berth, playing enough structured rugby to put up a useful total on the scoreboard. 

The Bulls again did that thing where once they get on the front foot, there is no stopping them.

But in doing so, they also got carried away, by trying to play more than was necessary, allowing Benetton to gain a foothold they didn’t deserve. 

The first 25 minutes was one way traffic. The Bulls tight five were dominant allowing the loose trio to bust holes in Benetton’s defence from which Willie le Roux, often in the first receiver role, expertly exploited the space.

The home team registered their bonus point for four tries within the opening half-hour, with both wings, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canaan Moodie, adding to their try tallies in this season’s competition, along with outside centre David Kriel and lock Ruan Nortje. 

But like last week, it was all coming too easy for the Bulls.

Rather than the structured build-up which provided the foundation for the attacking strikes that created their advantage on the scoreboard, the Bulls tried to play from every area on the field. 

Cameron Hanekom tried a pass out of the back of the hand at a scrum in his own 22 which led to a handling error from a teammate from which Benetton were able to earn their first points, when left-wing Onisi Ratava sprinted over.

Gianmarco Lucchessi barged over on the stroke of halftime and when scrumhalf Andy Uren dived over shortly after the interval, what had been a 26-point lead for the Bulls, had quickly been reduced to 10.

Jolted into action, the Bulls went back to a more structured style. Eschewing the fancy stuff, they ran more directly and Embrose Papier’s accurate kicking from the base of the rucks were well used thanks to the good hands of most notably Arendse and the other outside backs.   

Having reasserted their dominance the Bulls added two more tries, but Benetton hit back to earn themselves a much needed bonus point for scoring four tries.

In addition to their victory over the Sharks last week, the point earned on a hot highveld afternoon, is as much as they could have expected from their tour to South Africa. 

The Bulls will head to Durban for the final league match on June 1 to face the Sharks, before tackling the playoffs thereafter.

Scorers — 

Bulls 56 (31) : Tries — Canaan Moodie (3), David Kriel (2), Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions — Johan Goosen (4). Penalty — Chris Smith

Benetton 35 (14): Tries — Onisi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Marco Zanon. Conversions — Rhyno Smith (5).