Bulls make Champions Cup statement with win over Saracens

The Bulls grabbed their first win in the 2023-24 Champions Cup season after defeating Saracens.

The Bulls sent shock waves through the Champions Cup following a dominant performance that saw them beat European giants Saracens 27-16 on Saturday under the Loftus Versfeld lights.

Despite having three tries ruled out, Jake Whites’s side again showed their attacking prowess by scoring three tries. The win put the Bulls in a good position to make it out of Pool 1.

The occasion was a big one, and the home side did not look overwhelmed, instead, they embraced it.

Early dominance

The Bulls started the game at a ferocious pace, making two attacking entries into Saracens’ half with intent and on their third attempt, David Kriel scored a converted try.

They looked to play running rugby and use the altitude factor to their advantage. Meanwhile, Saracens, who have a lot of Test rugby players in their ranks, tried to slow the game down to preserve their energy.

In the early stages, the Bulls dominated the scrums and breakdowns, key areas that help win big games.

Keeping the scoreboard ticking is something the Bulls were mindful of, and when they got penalties in the red zone flyhalf Johan Goosen stepped up, slotting two goal kicks while his counterpart Owen Farrell returned the favour with two of his own.

Saracens showed their experience when they took control of the game by winning the contact battles, this allowed them to play their Test rugby-like game.

Locks on top

How the Bulls’ young locks Janko Swanepoel and Reinhardt Ludwig would fair against England international Maro Itoje was one of the battles to watch.

The Bulls duo held their own and were on top when Itoje was sent to the sin bin and immediately after Swanepoel scored another converted try after bulldozing his way to the try line to make the score 20-6 at the break.

The Bulls dominated possession in the first half and needed to manage the game well in the second stanza.

Bok outside backs

Saracens deployed a kicking game but the Bulls had answers to their questions with Goosen and Willie le Roux comfortable under the high ball.

The Bulls back three of Le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie combined for the third converted score: Le Roux collected the ball in his half and passed it to Arendse who glided past the Saracens defenders before giving the ball to Moodie on the wing to run to the try line.

Saracens were ill-disciplined in the match, they had two yellow cards and a red card to Billy Vunipola. Their most experienced players in Pretoria let down the English side.

Although the Bulls’ defence was breached twice, it should be commended as it was committed for large parts of the game and kept Saracens at bay.

Tries- David Kriel, Janko Swanepoel, Kurt-Lee Arendse; Conversions – Johan Goosen (3); Penalty – Goosen (2)
Tries- Elliot Daly, Theo McFarland; Penalty – Owen Farrell (2)