Johan Goosen red card sees desperate 14-man Bulls unable to stop late Munster rally

Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar barged his way over for a try, but Munster pulled off a vital victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar barged his way over for a try, but Munster pulled off a vital victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 20, 2024


The Bulls gave it their all with 14 men for nearly half-an-hour, but they suffered a huge blow to their United Rugby Championship home quarter-final hopes in a 27-22 defeat to Munster at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

Flyhalf Johan Goosen’s controversial red card in the 54th minute – for making head contact in a tackle on Munster replacement scrumhalf Craig Casey – meant that the Bulls had to tighten up their approach and defend with great tenacity for the rest of the match.

Jake White’s team did just that, holding out the marauding Munster attack to keep the scoreboard at 22-22 for about 15 minutes.

But the light blue dam wall was eventually pierced with six minutes left when veteran No 9 Conor Murray forced his way over in the right-hand corner for the bonus-point try.

That made it 27-22, and despite a number of multi-phase passages – with the Bulls forwards carrying strongly up the middle – Munster eventually won a turnover to clinch a vital victory that sees them moving up to third on 48 points, with the Bulls on 46 in fourth.

Leinster lost 44-12 to the Lions at Ellis Park earlier on Saturday, but the Irish giants still lead the URC standings on 54 points, one ahead of Glasgow.

The Bulls, though, will rue the fact that they now will have to rely on other results to secure a home semi-final and final after a disappointing overall performance against Munster.

Having kept most of their squad at home for last week’s Northampton Champions Cup quarter-final defeat, the Bulls should have played with greater intensity and precision.

Instead, it was Munster – led by impressive Springbok lock RG Snyman – who stormed out of the blocks at altitude, with their forwards in particular winning the physicality battle.

The Bulls messed up a defensive lineout near their 22, with no jumping for Johan Grobbelaar’s throw-in, and it led to the opening try for the visitors as wing Shane Daly dived over in the left corner in the 19th minute.

The Bulls, though, battled to string significant phases together as they often opted for a wild offload in the tackle instead of retaining possession.

But the home side struck back when their forwards rumbled at close range, and captain and No 8 Elrigh Louw powered over to level matters at 7-7.

Goosen was on song with his tactical kicking and touch-finders to drive Munster back into their half, and the No 10 also slotted a penalty in the 30th minute to regain the lead.

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But that man Snyman again stood up for the Irish province against his former team by barging his way over for Munster’s second try, with flyhalf Jack Crowley adding the conversion and a penalty on the stroke of halftime for a 17-10 advantage.

The Bulls appeared to be better organised in the second half, and they got back into the encounter through a Kurt-Lee Arendse touchdown after classy offloads from David Kriel and Louw.

Goosen also made a few stunning line-breaks, and the Bulls seemed to take charge when hooker Grobbelaar held off a few tacklers to grab a crucial five-pointer to put the Bulls 22-17 up in the 50th minute.

But the turning point arrived a few minutes later as Goosen was sent off for a dangerous tackle. The former Bok pivot expected Casey to pass and tried to block it, but when the Munster halfback dummied, Goosen made contact with his head.

It looked like a natural rugby collision that should just be a penalty, and referee Adam Jones of Wales allowed play to continue as Canan Moodie pounced to fly down the touchline and score in the corner.

But Jones consulted with the TMO and looked at the replays, and felt that there was no mitigation for Goosen and dished out the red card.

Munster took advantage soon enough, as replacement flank John Hodnett finished in fine style as he stepped past Moodie and fought his way through Arendse’s tackle to level proceedings at 22-22 with 22 minutes to go.

The Bulls defended with great desperation in the final quarter, but were unable to stop Murray from grabbing the clincher with six minutes left.


Bulls 22 – Tries: Elrigh Louw, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalty: Goosen (1).

Munster 27 – Tries: Shane Daly, RG Snyman, John Hodnett, Conor Murray. Conversions: Jack Crowley (2). Penalty: Crowley (1).