Flu-hit Bulls dig deep, down Dragons to return to winning ways

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Ruan Vermaak (Getty)
Ruan Vermaak (Getty)

The Bulls, desperate for a win following a difficult couple of weeks, were too strong for Wales' Dragons as they emerged 29-14 victors in a United Rugby Championship clash in Newport on Friday night. 

FT | Dragons 14-29 Bulls

Sloppy in some aspects as they saw a 17-0 lead cut to 17-14 by half-time, the Bulls were far superior at scrum time, with the penalties resulting from that dominance helping them throughout the contest. 

In wet, slippery conditions, opportunities for enterprising, running rugby were limited, but the Dragons did look dangerous at times with ball in hand. 

For the Bulls, this was far from their best performance of the season, but that won't matter one bit. Winning on the road is not easy in this competition, and this is a result that gets the Bulls moving in the right direction again after back-to-back South African derby losses against the Stormers and Sharks. 

The bonus point win takes the Bulls up to third on the combined URC log. 

The visitors were dealt a couple of serious blows before kick-off with the news that flyhalf Chris Smith and coach Jake White could not recover from flu in time for kick-off. 

That opened the door for Johan Goosen to be elevated from the bench into the No 10 jersey, and the highly-rated playmaker showed his best and worst qualities in the opening 40 minutes. 

Goosen single-handedly set up the Bulls' first try when he gathered a kick from deep in his own territory and then set off, taking a gap and beating two defenders before releasing Kurt-Lee Arendse, who made no mistake. 

Goosen then knocked over a routine penalty to make it 10-0, and things got even better for the Bulls when the Dragons conceded a penalty try as scrumhalf Lewis Jones slapped the ball dead when it looked like Canan Moodie was certain to pluck it out of the air and score from a Zak Burger chip.

With the scoreboard reading 17-0 after 15 minutes and with the Dragons down to 14 men, it looked to be a long way back for the hosts. 

Yet, with their backs against the wall, the Welshmen began to hit their straps with some high-tempo attacking that required crisp, accurate passing and even better handling.  

They scored from their first trip into danger zone with a well worked, nifty lineout move for hooker Bradley Roberts to score down the left touchline.

With Goosen missing touch regularly - both from penalty kicks and from open play - Dragons continued with their dominance and had their second when Max Clark scored down the left too. 

Sam Davies knocked over another difficult conversion from out wide and, suddenly, the hosts were right back in it and just 17-14 down at half-time.

The second half was less eventful, but the Bulls outmuscled their opposition as their scrum and forward dominance started becoming the difference. 

Centre Harold Vorster went crashing over from close range following a session of Bulls scrums on the Dragons line before veteran Springbok Bismarck du Plessis scored off a rolling maul. 

Scorers:

Dragons 14 (14)

Tries: Bradley Roberts, Max Clark

Conversions: Sam Davies (2)

Bulls 29 (17)

Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Penalty Try, Harold Vorster, Bismarck du Plessis 

Conversions: Johan Goosen (2)

Penalty: Goosen


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