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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Jack Goodhue © Gallo Images

Crusaders cruise past Bulls



The defending Vodacom Super Rugby champion Crusaders taught the Vodacom Bulls a lesson in composure and striking when it mattered as they cruised to a five try to two victory to win their match 33-14 in Christchurch on Friday.

The loss meant the Bulls will return home winless from their tour despite showing promise and now are one win from five in the competition where they started off so well.

It was another frustrating night for the Bulls who looked good early on, dominating the opening 10 minutes with more than 90 percent of the ball, but then watched as the Crusaders hit back twice in their only two chances in the Bulls red zone to make the score 14-0.

The stats tell a horrible story for the Bulls, especially when it comes to their finishing, one of the biggest bugbears for coach John Mitchell. While they dominated almost every statistic – they had double the passes, a third more carries than the Crusaders and beat 18 defenders to the defending champions’ 7, they were never in with a chance of winning the game.

They had more metres carried and forced the Crusaders to make more than a third more tackles, but in the end they couldn’t execute and it cost them.

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Perhaps it was a bit too much to ask them to beat a 22-year hoodoo since the last Bulls side had won in Christchurch, but it will be frustrating both to Bulls fans and to coach Mitchell how they weren’t able to handle the Crusaders line-speed on defence and how they played almost all of the rugby for little reward.

The Crusaders resembled the Bulls of the 2009 era, a team that focused on their defence, looked for weaknesses and kicked the ball down field to pounce on mistakes. They used their lineout drive to good effect to nullify the Bulls defence and scored three tries from it, while the Bulls used theirs countless times and came up with nothing.

It will be of concern to the Bulls that they weren’t able to stop the drive – the same problems that hurt them against the Lions a few weeks ago, and the result will give them a measure of where they are in comparison to the best side in the competition.

The Bulls will point to the fact that they are a work in progress, but on paper they are in exactly the same position as they were under Nollis Marais, winning one from five and with a stronger line-up than they had a year before.

It may sound a bit harsh to compare, but for a team who believes they can be championship contenders in a year or so, this is the ground where they would be measured. And while there was a lot good about the performance, unless they manage to cross the divide and finish teams off when they have the upper hand, the progress will be stunted.

Still, there is a lot to be expected when they return to Loftus Versfeld next week against their arch-rivals, the DHL Stormers, and their performance there will be crucial to the rest of their campaign.

The Bulls will kick themselves that despite five early penalties and three lineout drives, they were their own worst enemies, as turnovers allowed the Crusaders to get down into their half, and the first two lineout drives from the home side saw Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor force their way over from close range.

A blistering run from Travis Ismaiel, out of nothing, finally put them on the board as he ran a beautiful line to beat virtually every defender in sight and score a great try.

But the moments were too few and far between as the Crusaders scored another on the stroke of halftime, this time through midfielder Jack Goodhue, who used a powerful leg drive to score a try despite the attention of three players.

Shortly after halftime Goodhue scored again, ballooning the scoreline to 28-7 before the Bulls found some backbone to score through Marco van Staden, the replacement taking the ball up powerfully and not being held, getting up to run to score.

But the hope was quickly snuffed out by the Crusaders as a cross-kick saw George Bridge pick up and beat two defenders to secure the win, and send the Bulls home without a point for their efforts.

At just five points from their first five games, and just ahead of the Jaguares on points difference in their conference, the Bulls will be hoping their home ground becomes their fortress. Otherwise all the talk of a new dawn will be for nothing once the pressure starts to set in.

SCORERS

Crusaders – Tries: Scott Barrett, Codie Taylor, Jack Goodhue (2), George Bridge. Conversions: Mitchell Hunt (4)

Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Marco van Staden. Conversion: Handre Pollard (2)



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