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Watch: Willie le Roux claims debut try as Bulls cruise to a big win

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Willie le Roux claimed a debut try as the Bulls cruised to a crushing 53-27 bonus-point victory over Connacht in the United Rugby Championship.

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Playing his first match since helping the Springboks retain the Webb Ellis Cup, full-back Le Roux was joined on the scoresheet by Akker van der Merwe, Elrigh Louw, Ruan Nortje, Nizaam Carr, David Kriel and Chris Smith.

Fly-half Jaco van der Walt added five conversions and two penalties for the dominant South African hosts. Connacht hit back through tries from Diarmuid Kilgallen, Tadgh McElroy and Shamus Hurley-Langton, plus 10 points from Jack Carty, but were unable to prolong their strong start to the season in Pretoria.

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Victory for the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium was a fourth from six URC fixtures this term, a record that matches that of the outclassed Irish province.

While the South African side handed a maiden appearance to veteran le Roux following his four-year spell with Japanese club Toyota Verblitz, the away side remained without injured Ireland pair Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen.

Recalled Connacht captain Carty and rival number 10 van der Walt exchanged early penalties before the hosts seized the initiative. Hooker van der Merwe claimed the opening try, benefiting from a series of fine offloads involving Sebastian de Klerk and captain Nortje to cross wide on the right.

Flanker Louw quickly added a second by powering over from close range after spotting a gap in Connacht’s defensive line. The visitors were seeking another scalp on South African soil following last weekend’s single-point success over the Sharks in Durban.

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Yet they were on the back foot for much of an entertaining opening period which the hosts ended with a convincing 32-13 advantage. Following further penalties from former Scotland international van der Walt and Carty, lock Nortje registered the Bulls’ third try with a simple finish after Zak Burger’s dummy broke the line.

Connacht briefly responded when wing Kilgallen raced clear to touch down wide on the left. But le Roux quickly extinguished a potential momentum shift by collecting a stray pass from de Klerk to bag the bonus point on his landmark outing just before the break.

Bulls scrum-half Burger was denied a breakaway try early in the second period when the television match official spotted a cynical infringement in the build-up, which resulted in a yellow card for van der Merwe. Hooker McElroy then burrowed over as Connacht capitalised on the man advantage.

However, the Irish side soon lost replacement back row Conor Oliver to the sin-bin after he conceded a penalty which led to Bulls number eight Carr going over.

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Kriel’s fifth URC try of the season, in the 66th minute, made the scoreline more emphatic before replacement fly-half Smith converted his own score, prior to Hurley-Langton’s late consolation on a punishing afternoon for the away team.

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