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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Second-half blitz from Toulouse sends ill-disciplined Bulls packing

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Cape Town — A combination of poor discipline, a bit of stage-fright and a powerful Toulouse outfit saw the Bulls go down 33-9 in their Champions Cup last-16 clash in France on Sunday.

Having seen his team go into halftime just 12-6 down, coach Jake White would have had real hope that the Bulls could mount a fight for victory, and he was seen on TV laying down the law to the players in the changing-room.

But despite the rain clearing away for some sunshine in the southern French city, the Bulls capitulated to concede three tries in the second half as they slipped too many tackles and made several unforced errors, which saw them slump to a 10th consecutive defeat across all competitions.

Toulouse will now face the Sharks, who beat Munster in Durban at the weekend, in Saturday’s quarter-final at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

The Pretoria side had a good start as Toulouse flank Francois Cros dropped the opening kickoff, and flyhalf Chris Smith slotted a penalty soon after that.

Toulouse sharp-shooter Thomas Ramos replied with two of his own three-pointers to put the hosts 6-3 up as their forwards gradually gained the ascendancy in the tight exchanges and started to win the collisions.

The Bulls were just too passive in defence and didn’t make enough big hits as Toulouse breached the advantage line quite easily, and also disrupted Ruan Nortje in the lineouts throughout.

The few times that the visitors actually got the ball in their hands, an almost inevitable knock-on or spill forward at the breakdowns would follow, while English referee Matthew Carley often awarded the 50-50 calls to the French giants.

They also failed to put any meaningful phases together, or bring Springbok stars Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie into play, with fullback Arendse reduced to having to save the day in defence with a series of vital tackles and covering kicks in his 22.

With the pressure mounting after a number of infringements, the Bulls lost centre Harold Vorster to a yellow card on the half-hour mark for hands in the ruck, and Ramos added a fourth penalty to make it 12-3.

Toulouse lost some of their bite in the pack when star hooker Julien Marchand went off injured before halftime, and the Bulls were able to manufacture another kickable penalty from Smith to reduce the deficit to six points at the break.

The Bulls No 10 added another three-pointer following a scrum penalty to make it 12-9 early in the second half, but that was as good as it got for White and his team.

They had rotten luck too when Carley missed a clear forward pass from Toulouse, and from a resultant penalty, the French club’s lock Emmanuel Meafou forced his way to break the back of the Bulls defence.

Their second try came just five minutes later when wing Matthis Lebel produced a stunning finish in the left-hand corner despite a despairing tackle from Elrigh Louw, and that score virtually ended the Bulls’ challenge as Ramos’ conversion made it 26-9.

With a 30 000-plus crowd roaring their team on to victory, replacement lock Thibaud Flament pounced on a knock-on in-goal from Nortje to score the third try in the 65th minute, and Toulouse closed out the game without any further fuss to advance to the quarter-finals.


Toulouse 33 – Tries: Emmanuel Meafou, Matthis Lebel, Thibaud Flament. Conversions: Thomas Ramos (3). Penalties: Ramos (4)

Bulls 9 – Penalties: Chris Smith (3)

Champions Cup Quarter-Finals (all SA times)

Friday April 7

9pm: Leinster v Leicester, Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Saturday April 8

4pm: Toulouse v Sharks, Stade Ernest-Wallon, Toulouse

6.30pm: Exeter Chiefs v Stormers, Sandy Park, Exeter

Sunday April 9

4pm: La Rochelle v Saracens, Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle


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