Bulls v Munster: Five takeaways as Johan Goosen sees red as Jake White’s gamble fails

Jared Wright
Johan Goosen of The Vodacom Bulls during the United Rugby Championship

Johan Goosen of The Vodacom Bulls during the United Rugby Championship.

Following Munster’s 27-22 victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, here are our five takeaways from the United Rugby Championship clash.

Top line

It was yet another cracking URC encounter at Loftus as the two sides went hammer and tongs at one another in an enthralling clash.

In the end, it was Johan Goosen’s red card, paired with Munster’s grit and determination, that decided the match, with Conor Murray returning to the pitch after Craig Casey’s HIA to score the match-winning try.

It was a fierce battle in every facet of the game with both sides needing a bit of luck along the way. A poor lineout from the Bulls was duly punished as Shane Daly ran in the opening try of the game from the turnover in possession.

Elrigh Louw thundered over the line for the Bulls‘ response before RG Snyman replied at his old stomping ground as the visitors led 14-10 at the break.

Kurt-Lee Arendse and Johan Grobbelaar’s tries looked to put the Bulls in control for the first time in the match but it was the Irish province who had the final say as they claimed their eighth straight win over South African teams in the URC and a maiden win in Pretoria.

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Bulls gamble fails

Bulls boss Jake White maintains that he took a weakened side to Northampton because of medical reasons, but he was undoubtedly targeting a home win over Munster as they continued their bid for a home URC play-off run.

However, it has all backfired for the Pretoria side as they exited the Investec Champions Cup and suffered their first home defeat in the URC this season.

They were without a handful of frontline players against Munster, which played its part, as did Goosen’s sending-off, but it is safe to say that the gamble backfired.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as they do have a favourable run of fixtures to end the season, but a win today would have put them within touching distance of table-toppers Leinster following their loss to the Lions just a few hours earlier.

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Johan Goosen sees red

It was a match-defining moment as Goosen shot out of the line and looked to pressurise Casey, who had just come off the bench, but got it all wrong as he clattered into the scrum-half, making head-on-head contact.

The ball sprang loose, and Canan Moodie raced away to score in the corner, but the match officials ruled that out upon review.

The Bulls faithful looked stunned as the cameras panned across the stadium, but really, the officials rightfully issued the red card.

It’s always a gamble to shoot out of the line when the ball pops out of the breakdown as you run the risk of mistiming your run and conceding a penalty or, as in this case, end up making a rash tackle.

Goosen was always upright, and while he rolled the dice to spoil Munster’s possession, one still wondered if it was worth it. At that stage of the match, the Bulls had the momentum and had just scored two quick tries to take the lead.

Munster made the most of Goosen’s ill-discipline and worked their way up the pitch to level the scores. Before the sending-off, the fly-half was enjoying a rather fine performance that included some great line breaks and a glorious kick.

It was somewhat on brand recently for Goosen, who is blowing incredibly hot and cold in matches.

Jack Crowley’s class shines through

The Munster and Ireland pivot continues to go from strength to strength and produced yet another mesmerising display in the number 10 jumper.

After a starring role in Munster’s title-winning campaign last season, Crowley has shifted gears and is thriving for club and country, particularly after filling Johnny Sexton’s void in the Irish jersey.

The 24-year-old showed his phenomenal skillset and, particularly in the first half, bossed proceedings with brilliant game management.

His short and long kicking game was fantastic, as were his cross kicks, while he wasn’t shy to take the ball to the line either and was rightfully named man of the match for his classy performance in driving his team to victory.

Crowley’s missed conversion did give the Bulls one last shot at winning the game with a converted try, but that was one of the few blights in his game, with a missed touchline kick being the other.

Today was yet another addition to his ever-growing catalogue of stellar performances as he drove his side to a famous win.

Munster show their pedigree

The sending-off was undoubtedly the turning point in the match, but throughout the clash, the visitors made the most of the opportunities that the Bulls gifted them.

Graham Rowntree’s side were fortunate in some cases, with Snyman not sanctioned for tackling David Kriel with his knees firmly on the ground, and a suspected knock-on in the build-up to Murray’s try. But still, like any championship side, they found a way to eke out a result.

As mentioned above, they battled fiercely with the Bulls in every facet of the game and sometimes you make your own luck. They now close the gap to Leinster to just six points and with a fit and firing squad, you’d fancy them to secure a home play-off match at least.

The decision to load up their bench with impact players ultimately saw them over the line in Pretoria, and for the first time ever, Snyman and Tadhg Beirne started in the same second-row, and the benefits of that were stark. Snyman hammered through a powerhouse shift, while Beirne had a trademark standout performance topped off with a turnover to seal the result. Munster were also able to put immense pressure on the Bulls lineout while the likes of Alex Kendellen, Alex Nankivell and John Hodnett all had fine outings.

Munster were the dark horses that won the URC last season. They did it the hard way, and although they have had their struggles this time around, no one will underestimate them.

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