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Bristol's chances of winning the Champions Cup are in jeopardy as Mchunu leads the Bulls to a commanding victory.
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Bristol’s chances of winning the Champions Cup are in jeopardy as Mchunu leads the Bulls to a commanding victory.

Bristol suffered a sobering loss, as did English rugby. The Bulls were not at full capacity due to resting several Springboks, but they still managed to overcome the absences and the challenges of traveling 6,000 miles and experiencing a 20C drop in temperature from their home in Pretoria. Their victory was relatively easy and nearly secures them a spot in the knockout stage.

Bulls coach Jake White stated that winning away is difficult, especially in the Champions Cup. He expressed satisfaction with their away win and bonus point, but did not want to get too confident.

The Bears may still have a chance mathematically, but realistically they will most likely be participating in the Challenge Cup. Their next game will be against Connacht on Friday. It was evident that they were not at their strongest, especially without their England props, Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler. They would have greatly benefited from their presence.

The Bulls dominated the Bears in the forward positions, especially during scrums. The penalty count was heavily in favor of the visiting team, with six penalties compared to none for the home team. It is worth mentioning that in today’s rugby, there seems to be an increase in irrational red cards for unavoidable accidents. Additionally, the absurd practice of giving yellow cards to prop forwards who have been beaten was also brought to our attention.

In the second half, Max Lahiff was chosen to replace George Kloska, who had received the majority of the penalties in the first half. However, during Lahiff’s time in the penalty box, Bristol was unable to have a full front row at the next scrum. As a result, they had to sacrifice another player in order to have uncontested scrums.

Bristol coach Pat Lam stated that it was a significant moment. He strongly disagrees with the decision made by the referees regarding the scrum, even though the law must be followed. Once a decision is made, it is challenging to change it. This situation is something they have not encountered before.

During that period when they were down to only 13 players, Bristol put on a commendable performance. However, towards the end of it, instead of kicking the ball out of bounds where Lahiff was ready to come back on, Kieran Marmion kicked it long. The Bulls caught the kick and quickly countered, resulting in their second game-changing try by Khutha Mchunu, with help from a break by one of their formidable centers, Harold Vorster.

Bristol was fortunate to have a relatively small deficit of 10-7 at halftime, even though Reinhardt Ludwig’s try was rejected by the TMO in the second quarter. Marmion managed to score their sole try of the first half with a great play initiated by AJ MacGinty’s deceptive move and James Williams, but they were still behind at 10-0. Devon Williams, the skilled full-back, set up Sergeal Petersen for a lethal finish.

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After the Bulls successfully scored their third try, they gained momentum in the final quarter and extended their lead to 31-7, earning them a bonus point. Elrigh Louw, a promising flanker, broke through a cluster of players to score their third try, while Jan-Hendrik Wessels intercepted Steve Luatua’s pass at the halfway line and ran to the end zone. Although Bristol managed to score two tries in the last five minutes, courtesy of Gabriel Ibitoye and Magnus Bradbury, it was not enough to make up for their loss.

A small source of comfort is the entertaining thought that Ashton Gate could possibly be used once more in the competition. Since the South African teams are not part owners of EPCR, they are not permitted to host a semi-final unless it is against another South African team. If the Bulls advance to the semis, they have selected Ashton Gate as their preferred location. It will require a strong team to prevent them from using it.

Source: theguardian.com