Bulls battle back but fall to spirited Scarlets in eight-try thriller

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Joe Roberts of Scarlets is tackled by Harold Vorster and Chris Smith of Bulls. (Photo by Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/Gallo Images)
Joe Roberts of Scarlets is tackled by Harold Vorster and Chris Smith of Bulls. (Photo by Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/Gallo Images)

The Bulls shredded a 20-point deficit, came within two points of tying the scores but went down 37-28 to the Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales, on Friday night.

It was a pulsating, if sometimes error-riddled, United Rugby Championship game that served up four tries apiece and plenty of entertainment, especially if you were wearing red at Parc y Scarlets.

The Bulls had a confident start to the match when they crossed the try line first through scrumhalf Zak Burger with five minutes on the clock.

RECAP | Scarlets v Bulls

But Scarlets showed early that they weren’t prepared to be outdone in front of their partisan crowd.

Flanker Dan Davis got the home side’s first score, which looked like he corkscrewed over the line but the TMO found no double movement.

LLANELLI, WALES - JANUARY 27: Johan Goosen of Voda
Johan Goosen and Zak Burger. (Photo by Gruffydd Thomas/Huw Evans/Gallo Images)

Soon after, prop Kemsley Mathias struck again for Scarlets, who were using the crowd momentum to unsettle the Bulls and it worked.

The Bulls, now dragged into a melee, decided to play the open, unstructured game that Scarlets clearly favoured on the night and created a glorious opening for Ruan Vermaak to run through the middle.

But the lock forward, who made a brilliant straight run to find the space, lacked a basic pass that would have put Burger in for his second try.

Davis ripped the Bulls open, breaking the line and burrowing through before offloading. Scarlets put a kick through and scrumhalf Gareth Davies gathered the ball with nothing but vacant Bulls land in front of him.

Scarlets suffered a huge blow to their momentum when, at 34 minutes, they lost Joe Roberts to the sin bin after the outside centre was caught off feet at the ruck, preventing a Bulls attack.

Wing Stravino Jacobs capitalised immediately, scoring in the left corner after fielding a Johan Goosen cross-kick to touch down. After the conversion, the Bulls cut the 20-point deficit to 13 points at 27-14, the half-time score.

Fourteen minutes into the second half, the Bulls scored again when Cyle Brink powered over the line following a 10-phase move inside the Scarlets 22.

The Bulls had Scarlets on the ropes, who were battling to hold onto their dwindling lead.

Five minutes after Brink, substitute prop Simphiwe Matanzima used his body as an instrument of destruction to score the fourth Bulls try. That put them within two points of the hosts at 30-28 with just under 20 minutes to go.

From there, desperation kicked in from both teams. The Bulls attack became more erratic than usual and Scarlets scrambled in defence, making for a scrappy finish to the game.

Parc y Scarlets erupted when fullback Johnny McNicholl scored the match-clinching try with less than four minutes left, which, after the conversion, left the Bulls with nine points to get – an improbable task that proved too much for the visitors.


Scarlets 37 (27)

Tries: Dan Davis, Kemsley Mathias, Gareth Davies, Johnny McNicholl

Conversions: Sam Castelow (3), Dan Jones

Penalties: Sam Castelow (3)

Bulls 28 (14)

Tries: Zak Burger, Stravino Jacobs, Cyle Brink, Simphiwe Matanzima

Conversion: Chris Smith (4)

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