Cornal Hendricks scored a second half hat-trick to help steer the Bulls to a superb 38-31 victory (half-time 12-10) in their final United Rugby Championship (URC) league match against the Ospreys in Swansea on Friday.
This win not only gave the men from Pretoria the necessary momentum before their quarter-final in two weeks’ time, but also underlined their ability to mix ruthless forward play with superb attacking skills at the back, while the Ospreys’ two bonus points put them in a good position to claim the Welsh Shield.
Although the visitors were guilty of a few soft moments, which allowed the Welshmen to remain in the game until midway through the second half, they did what was necessary to put the result beyond all doubt through with brilliant game control, and a red-hot Hendricks.
They built momentum through forward power and were relentless in the set pieces, while also displaying some deft touches on attack when opportunities were presented, while the Ospreys’ two late tries skewed the final scoreline a bit.
Bulls got off to a hot start
The Bulls dominated the first quarter, scoring two tries in the process – by Madosh Tambwe (wing) in the fourth minute and Chris Smith (flyhalf) in the 20th – to take control of the clash against a team featuring 10 Test players.
But the men from Pretoria will not have been happy with the way they allowed their hosts to come back in the final 10 minutes before half-time, upping the tempo to score a try by Jac Morgan (flanker), while Gareth Anscombe (flyhalf) added a penalty goal and conversion to see his team go into the break only two points behind.
If the Bulls were upset with how they first half ended, they showed it at the start of the second stanza by scoring two tries in the first seven minutes.
First, Canan Moodie (fullback) crossed the whitewash in the 42nd minute after a good start to the half and a superb line-break by Hendricks, before the big midfielder ran yet another great line to score his first in the 47th.
Both were converted by Smith and gave the visitors a commanding 16-point lead and although Luke Morgan (wing) got one back for the Ospreys 10 minutes later, Hendricks was on song again just after the hour mark with yet another great angled run from an attacking lineout for his second five-pointer.
Hendricks’ third try came just three minutes later, this time with Moodie setting up a great run to the corner for the Bulls midfielder, who went over in the corner.
The Ospreys tried hard to breach the Bulls’ line towards the end, which they did through a fluky try by replacement hooker Sam Parry and an intercept five-pointer by Luke Morgan to ensure they get two bonus points, but it wasn’t enough to stop the South Africans from recording a well-deserved win in Wales.
Tries: Jac Morgan, Luke Morgan (2), Sam Parry
Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (4)
Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Chris Smith, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks (3)
Conversions: Smith (4)