Munster battle back but fall short in thriller with Vodacom Bulls

Reds had to be satisfied with losing bonus-point in an exciting URC tie
Munster battle back but fall short in thriller with Vodacom Bulls

Cornal Hendricks of the Vodacom Bulls tackling Jack O’Donoghue of Munster Rugby. Picture: INPHO/Steve Haag

Vodacom Bulls 29 Munster 24 

MUNSTER'S thrilling second-half comeback ultimately came up just short as they had to be content with leaving Loftus Versfeld with just a losing bonus-point in their URC clash with the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday afternoon.

After some second-minute handbags the Bulls out-half Chris Smith opened the scoring with a penalty from 25m after Munster had made a complete mess of an overthrow at their own lineout, but Ben Healy immediately levelled matters with a penalty of his own in the sixth minute.

Munster’s South African openside Chris Cloete was soon caught miles offside at a lineout, which allowed Smith slot a ninth-minute penalty to regain the lead for the home side.

Two minutes later Munster marched their hosts down the pitch and appeared to score the opening try of the game, through captain Jack O’Donoghue, but the score was chalked off after referee Ben Whitehouse had spotted an infringement by Josh Wycherley in the middle of the maul.

The Bulls capitalised almost immediately when left winger Madosh Tambwe squirted out of a Stephen Archer tackle and used his pace to get over on the hard Pretorian ground for the opening try in the 16th minute.

Smith added yet another penalty by the 22nd minute to make it 16-3 as Munster had conceded eight penalties by the 24th minute, as the referee whistled Munster out of the game.

Munster’s young number eight Alex Kendellen then received a yellow card in the 29th minute for a no-arms tackle, which presented Smith with another simple penalty attempt which he took.

In the 34th minute, the giant Bull lock Walt Steenkamp crashed over despite his full-back Kurt-Lee Arendse almost making a complete mess of what looked an easy run-in, but the loose ball bounced kindly for the second row, and a clear knock-on by Arendse was missed, to make it an ugly looking 26-3 at the break from a Munster perspective.

Smith kicked the first score of the half from a penalty in the 47th minute that even had the South African commentators baffled as to why it was awarded, and they were equally perplexed when Harold Vorster’s head high tackle on Kendellen wasn’t punished with a card of any description soon after.

Munster finally had something to shout about when Kendellen blasted over from close range in the 54th minute and in the 65th minute Damian de Allende touched down after a lineout steal from the Bulls near their own line had not been dealt with by the home side.

Bismarck du Plessis then received a straight red card after spearing Kendellen into the ground in the 69th minute and four minutes later Munster were back within range when captain O’Donoghue crashed over from close range after big carries from Kendellen and Mark Donnelly, but the Bulls just about held on for the win.

Niall Scannell of Munster Rugby. Picture: INPHO/Steve Haag
Niall Scannell of Munster Rugby. Picture: INPHO/Steve Haag

Scorers for Bulls: Smith (5 pens, 2 cons), Tambwe, Steenkamp (1 try each).

Munster: Healy (1 pen, 3 cons), Kendellen, de Allende, O’Donoghue (1 try each).

BULLS: Arendse; Hendricks, Mapoe, Vorster, Tambwe; Smith, Papier; Louw, Botha, Coetzee (c); Nortje, Walt Steenkamp; van Rooyen, Grobbelaar, Steenekamp.

Subs: Matanzima for G Steenekamp (51), Swanepoel and Burger for Nortje and Papier (55), du Plessis and Hunt for van Rooyan and Grobbelaar (61), WJ Steenkamp and Steyn for Botha and Smith (68).

MUNSTER: Haley; Nash, Farrell, R Scannell, Zebo; Healy, Cronin; J Wycherley, N Scannell, Archer; Kleyn, F Wycherley; O’Donoghue (c), Cloete, Kendellen.

Subs: Barron, Hodnett and de Allende for N Scannell, Cloete and R Scannell (50), Ryan and Patterson for Archer and Cronin (55), O’Connor for Kleyn (62), Donnelly and Crowley for J Wycherley and Zebo (71), N Scannell for Barron (80).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

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