Bonus point Bulls stay unbeaten as Piardi's pedantic whistle sours Loftus spectacle

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Marcell Coetzee. (Photo by Gordon Arons/Gallo Images)
Marcell Coetzee. (Photo by Gordon Arons/Gallo Images)

At Loftus

The Bulls will embark on their three-match URC tour next week with three wins from as many starts after a comfortable, bonus point 28-14 victory over Connacht at Loftus on Friday night.

Jake White's troops overcame a trio inconveniences in the form of knocks to two key players in Johan Grobbelaar and Canan Moodie - both seemed to be taken off as precautions - a referee in Italian Andrea Piardi whose whistle, at best, was as attritional as his national rugby team from the 1990s, and three yellow cards.

RECAP | United Rugby Championship - Bulls v Connacht

The hosts' dominance was in stark contrast to last season's corresponding fixture, when the Bulls had to contend with Galway's howling winds and a slick, direct Irish combination.

Inspired by the robustness of Walt Steenkamp and Ruan Nortje, their two brilliant locks, the Bulls were given front-foot ball whenever play was allowed to carry on without the intervention from the whistle.

Marcell Coetzee's try was the best illustration of the home side's ability to make their close range phase play count, but they were hamstrung on other occasions by needlessly conceding attacking breakdown penalties or some suspect handling.

There were some pleasing moments of initiative too, notably when Cornal Hendricks and Moodie interlinked beautifully to set up Zak Burger's first of two tries before David Kriel - who'd thrown away a potential try of his own by chipping ahead instead of backing his pace - deftly completed a pop pass to a galloping Nortje, who broke and then released Burger again.

However, as much as the Bulls showed composure in dealing with Piardi's awkward officiating as well as repelling Connacht's clueless attacking shape for the first 50 minutes, it was perhaps inevitable that the spectacle would unravel.

Marco van Staden was sent to the bin for lifting an opponent's feet at a tackle, Johan Goosen was bafflingly posted for a mutual clash of heads and replacement Jan-Hendrik Wessels for a late tackle.

The last sanctioning proved the final straw for the Bulls losing their shape as they would concede two tries in Wessels' absence.

Ironically, Connacht's initial second "try" was ruled out for a blatant forward pass - one only picked up after a replay on the big screen - before it was scored anyway when Chris Smith's clearing kick from that uncontested scrum was charged down.

By the 70th minute, a sizeable crowd was more preoccupied with a group of men getting their "snake" made of beer glasses to reach the first level of suites.

It said everything that needed to be said.

Point scorers:

Bulls - (21) 28

Tries: Zak Burger (2) Kurt-Lee Arendse, Marcell Coetzee

Conversions: Johan Goosen (4)

Connacht - (0) 14

Try: Jack Aungier, David Hawkshaw

Conversions: Hawkshaw (2)

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