Bulls overcome battling Benetton to reach Final Four

Bulls overcome battling Benetton to reach Final Four

The Vodacom Bulls booked their place in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship semi-finals with a 30-23 victory over Benetton at Loftus Versfeld.

Beaten finalists in 2022, the Bulls scored after just 25 seconds through the first of two Kurt-Lee Arendse tries, with David Kriel also going over. Johan Goosen converted all three tries and also landed three penalties.

Benetton, in the play-offs for only the second time and first since 2019, stayed in the game throughout with tries from Onisi Ratave, Tomas Albornoz and Malakai Fekitoa, with Rhyno Smith adding one conversion and kicking two penalties, but the Bulls held on.

The Bulls made a stunning start in Pretoria when Arendse chased Willie le Roux's chip over the top to score and Goosen added the extras.

Goosen came close to a second try for the Bulls before Smith's penalty got Benetton on the board.

Ratave thought he had given the Italians the lead but his try was chalked off after Federico Ruzza was adjudged to be offside when charging down Embrose Papier's kick.

Moments later, the Bulls compounded Benetton's misery as Arendse - who went off shortly afterwards for an HIA - scored his second of the game, with Goosen again making no mistake with the conversion.

Benetton kept battling away and were rewarded when Ratave did get his try after some quick passing, although Smith missed out on the additional two points.

Goosen's penalty stretched the Bulls' lead to nine points before Alessandro Garbisi failed to hold Ratave's pass inside with the try-line gaping just before half-time.

Smith and Goosen traded second-half penalties either side of Albornoz missing a drop-goal attempt.

Another Goosen penalty made it 20-11 but back came Benetton and Albornoz spotted a gap in the Bulls defence to go over, with Smith making it a two-point game.

The Bulls then grabbed a crucial third try shortly afterwards, with Goosen jinking his way through the Benetton defence before Papier played in Kriel, which Goosen again converted.

However, Benetton refused to go away and Fekitoa went over in the corner, although Smith could not add the extras.

Goosen knocked over another penalty before the Bulls survived some late Benetton pressure to advance.

Vodacom Man of the Match

Although he ended up on the losing side, Ratave produced an excellent display. He was a threat throughout, scoring one and also having another ruled out. Made the most metres in the game (102) and clean breaks (3).

Play of the Match

With Benetton having just made it a two-point game, the Bulls needed some inspiration and it came from Goosen. The fly-half jinked past several defenders before Papier went on to put Kriel in for a crucial try.

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