Ulster fall to Bulls in game of two halves in Pretoria

The northern province head home without a win from their two-match tour to South Africa.

Ruan Nortje of the Vodacom Bulls and Cornal Hendricks of the Vodacom Bulls look to tackle Kieran Treadwell of Ulster.
Ruan Nortje of the Vodacom Bulls and Cornal Hendricks of the Vodacom Bulls look to tackle Kieran Treadwell of Ulster.
Image: Steve Haag/INPHO

THE BULLS SCORED 31 points in the second half at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon for a 34-16 win over Ulster for their fifth straight win in the United Rugby Championship.

Trailing 3-9 at the half time break, the Bulls turned in a much more clinical display to ensure that the Ulstermen will be returning to Belfast without a win from their two-match tour to South Africa.

19,436 watched on at  Loftus Versfeld — the biggest crowd of any sporting event in South Africa since March 2020. 

Ulster were dealt a blow as soon as the second minute when the winger, Ethan McIlroy, was forced to leave the park after getting an elbow to the mouth while contesting an up-and-under with his Bulls counterpart, Madosh Tambwe.

Ulster scrum-half, Nathan Doak, opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a penalty, and he clearly enjoyed the favourable kicking conditions on the highveld with several long-range attempts on goal. Chris Smith levelled matters in the 24th minute with a penalty for the hosts.

Doak landed two more penalties in the last 10 minutes of the half to give the visitors a 9-3 lead at the break.

The shift came four minutes into the second stanza when Springbok and former Ulster loose-forward, Marcell Coetzee, scored a converted try. Chris Smith extended the Bulls lead with a second penalty before Tambwe scored a try after being denied earlier in the game.

Ulster struck back with a converted try by the centre, Luke Marshall, to make it a four-point game.

Ulster second-rower, Kieran Treadwell, received an unlucky yellow card in the 66th minute for a high tackle on Kurt-Lee Arendse, and the Bulls made the most of the advantage with the hooker, Johan Grobbelaar, scoring a try from a strong lineout maul from the resulting penalty. This time it was the seasoned Morné Steyn, who added the extra two points for the hosts.

Coetzee received his marching order with some six minutes left on the clock and with Ulster on the tackle. As was the case with Treadwell about 10 minutes earlier, it too seemed to be a bit of a harsh yellow card as on both instances the players made contact with the ball first during the tackle.

Ulster were well on their way to score some late points in the game, but former Blitzboks speedster, Arendse, intercepted the ball close to his own 22 and sprinted in for the try that earned the Bulls the valuable bonus point.

Ulster will be arriving back in Belfast on Monday morning to prepare for a short turnaround heading into Sunday’s away game to Toulouse in Europe. Ulster’s next game in the URC will be on 22 April when they host Munster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

Scorers for Bulls:

Tries: Marcell Coetzee (44th), Madosh Tambwe (56th), Johan Grobbelaar (66th), Kurt-Lee Arendse (76th)

Conversions: Chris Smith [2/2], Morné Steyn [2/2]

Penalties: Chris Smith [2/3]

Cards: Marcell Coetzee [Yellow card, 74th minute]

Scorers for Ulster:

Tries: Luke Marshall (65th),

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Conversions: Nathan Doak [1/1]

Penalties: Nathan Doak [3/4]

Cards: Kieran Treadwell [Yellow card, 66th minute]

Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marcell Coetzee (c), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Lionel Mapoe.

Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Ben Moxham, 13 James Hume, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Brad Roberts, 1 Andrew Warwick.

Replacements: 16 Tom Stewart, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Matty Rea, 21 John Cooney, 22 Marcus Rea, 23 Stewart Moore.


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Morgan Piek

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