Pote Human’s plucky Bulls delivered a stirring effort against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday, but ultimately fell short by 28-35 in a thrilling Super Rugby quarterfinal.
Their power game was once again effective against their opponents and their resolve encouraging, yet crucial mistakes on defence cost them as the superior finishing of the home side proved decisive.
But no-one can fault an accomplished effort.
Who was the star in this match?
Young Salesi Rayasi hadn’t played much for the hosts before this match, but his brace of tries and overall attacking skill made a great impression before his yellow card for a deliberate knock-down. It’s then more appropriate to highlight Cornal Hendricks‘ performance. The Bulls wing has done brilliantly in 2019 after being given a lifeline by the franchise. He’s a workhorse and his finishing ability notable. Is a Springbok recall a ridiculous idea?
Key moments and themes
- The Bulls alluded in the build-up to how knockouts are defined by short, small moments and in this case it was the four-minute period in the second quarter that cost the men from Loftus. They conceded twice during that passage, the second – Rayasi’s first try – being particularly agonising after Handre Pollard was the victim of a poor bounce, which provided the Hurricanes with momentum.
- What will make Human very proud is how his charges continued their ability to brush aside setbacks. They used their limited opportunities to keep themselves in the game, in particular pouncing on mistakes to put points on the scoreboard. It also suggested once again that the South African power game is an effective way of troubling New Zealand teams. It was ironic though that the two times when the Bulls actually did create some flowing attacking movements, they couldn’t quite round off.
- Defensive organisation continues to haunt the Bulls. While they generally tackled decently one-on-one, they were wayward on the outside, losing shape regularly and allowing the Hurricanes to exploit space with some wonderful passing.
- John Plumtree, the home side’s coach, will be happy with the win, but he’ll believe there’s work to be done on the Canes’ finesse, which was lacking at stages and could’ve buried the Bulls.
Hurricanes – Tries: Salesi Rayasi (2), TJ Perenara, Ben Lam. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalties: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett (2).
Bulls – Tries: Cornal Hendricks (2), Warrick Gelant, penalty try. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3).