PRETORIA – The Sunwolves showed Saturday that no matter how big the heart is, if the legs are gone then there is only one result.
The toll of a long tough first season in Super Rugby showed at Loftus Versfeld as Mark Hammett’s side was beaten 50-3 by the Bulls. The hosts, desperate for a win to stay in contention for a wild card spot in the playoffs, played some good rugby but they were helped by some poor defense — especially in the first half — from some very tired Sunwolves players.
“In the first half we let them score some easy tries and when you are 30 points down it’s hard to get back,” said Sunwolves fullback Riann Viljoen.
To their credit, the Sunwolves (1-12-1) — for whom Viljoen and Ed Quirk were once again outstanding — had the lion’s share of possession and territory in the second half. But they were unable to get any reward for all their hard work.
“In the second half we tried to play some exciting running rugby that the Sunwolves like to play and were unlucky not to score,” Viljoen said.
The Bulls (8-5-1) started well but they were met by some staunch defense led by Taiyo Ando and Quirk.
But the good work of the visitors was undone in the 11th minute when Jamba Ulengo broke three attempted tackles and then fed Lappies Labuschagne, who rumbled over for the opening try, Francois Brummer’s conversion making it 7-0.
Yu Tamura then exchanged penalties with Brummer before the Bulls once again made the most of some poor defense as Dries Swanepoel finished off some good support work from his teammates to go over between the sticks.
Jannes Kirsten added a third try nine minutes later as the Bulls pack proved far too powerful for the visitors before sloppy Sunwolves back play handed Brummer an easy try.
The Bulls flyhalf made it four-from-four with the boot as he added the extras to his own five-pointer to make it 31-3 at the break.
It took just two minutes of the second half for the Bulls to increase their lead when Adriaan Strauss powered over.
And for many it seemed the only question was how many more tries the hosts could score.
So it was to the Sunwolves’ credit, that it took another 30 minutes for the Bulls to cross the chalk when Travis Ismaiel sprinted over.
The flying wing added a second five minutes later with Tian Schoeman’s second conversion of the day bringing up the half century.
“It was a game of two halves,” said man-of-the-match Labuschagne, who is heading to Japan to play for Kubota Spears for the next two years. “In the first half we could attack a little bit and in the second we had to defend a bit.”