Damian McKenzie scored 21 points as the Chiefs thrashed the Vodacom Bulls 56-20 in Pretoria to secure their first win of the season. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Bulls were quite simply outclassed by the Chiefs from start to finish at Loftus. The visitors, who came into this clash winless, did the basics well and looked like a team with a set plan that they executed to perfection. They were physical in contact, but displayed all the handling skills, running lines and guts lacking in their previous five games that had resulted in four defeats and a draw.
After the Lions and Stormers had leapfrogged them in the South African conference earlier in the day, this will go down as a real missed opportunity by the Bulls.
Having enjoyed a solid start to the season that saw them go three from four, there’s no cause for the Bulls to panic just yet following this defeat. But this was the Pretoria-based side’s most disappointing performance so far this year.
With poor discipline and virtually no kicking game, the Bulls looked lethargic on the field. And while their defence did a good holding job initially, it disintegrated when the Chiefs decided to inject pace into the game. Wing Solomon Alaimalo, lock Brodie Retallick and centre Alex Nankivell, who was a late inclusion after an injury to Anton Lienert-Brown, were rewarded with two tries apiece. But the day belonged to fullback McKenzie, who caused the Bulls’ defence all sorts of problems on attack and was nearly flawless off the kicking tee as he slotted six conversions and three penalties.
The opening quarter was a stop-start affair thanks to hesitancy from both sides to attack early on. Instead, the points came via penalties as McKenzie and Handré Pollard successfully traded kicks. The Chiefs, though, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory. And when a contestable kick by the Chiefs was won back by them, the Bulls were caught on their heels as the visitors used the width of the field to get the ball to Solomon Alaimalo for a try in the left corner.
It galvanised the Chiefs and McKenzie in particular. He made linebreak after linebreak and set up two more tries, by Nankivell and Retallick, to hand the Chiefs a 24-6 lead at the break. To make matters worse for the Bulls, they lost the influential Duane Vermeulen to a suspected knee injury, which will be of great concern for the Bulls and Boks.
There was to be no comeback for the shell-shocked Bulls in the second half. The Chiefs carried on where they left off, pinning the hosts in their own half and piercing their defensive line at will.
A poor kick from Pollard led to another Chiefs attack, and soon Retallick was over for his second score. McKenzie then put in a well-weighted grubber and Nankivell collected to complete his brace.
Trailing 38-6 with 20 minutes to go, the Bulls were handed a slight reprieve when Alaimalo was yellow-carded for a high shot on Tim Agaba and they used the opportunity well. Spotting space in behind the line, Jesse Kriel ran on to Pollard’s neat chip over the top.
But their hopes were quickly dashed as two further tries and as many penalties firmly secured the result in the Chiefs’ favour.
There was a late try for Burger Odendaal, but it mattered little for the Bulls.
Bulls – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (2).
Chiefs – Tries: Solomon Alaimalo (2), Alex Nankivell (2), Brodie Retallick (2), Toiroa Tahuriorangi. Conversions: Damian McKenzie (6). Penalties: McKenzie (3).
Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Hanro Liebenberg, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima,18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick (c), 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images