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White says how Bulls exploited England duo's absence in Bristol win

Jake White, Director of Rugby of Vodacom Bulls looks on prior to the Investec Champions Cup match between Bristol Bears and Vodacom Bulls at Ashton Gate on January 13, 2024 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Bristol boss Pat Lam was left to reflect on “a huge turning point” of his team briefly going down to 13 players as they lost 31-17 to Investec Champions Cup opponents the Bulls.


Lam saw replacement prop Max Lahiff, who had taken over from George Kloska with Bristol having a torrid time in the scrums, sin-binned early in the second half at Ashton Gate.

It meant uncontested scrums with them being unable to field a complete front-row, and Lam’s team having to lose another player in addition to Lahiff as a result.

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Jake White ahead of Bristol game

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Jake White ahead of Bristol game

The Bulls stretched their lead to 17-7 with Lahiff and wing Gabriel Ibitoye still off, and rugby director Lam said: “It was a huge turning point.

“We weren’t getting the rub of the green in the scrums, so we had to change the front-row.

“The boys defended well with 13, but it takes a lot out of you. The scrum is a big part of the game, and fair play to the Bulls.”

Bristol must now beat Connacht in Galway to have even an outside chance of making the last 16, but they are still likely to be reliant on results elsewhere.

Lam added: “The most important thing is to get back into it, get to Connacht and see what happens on the back of that.


“Everyone knew this was a big round, so we are disappointed, but all we can control is what we can do over the next six days and get to Galway.”

Lam, meanwhile, confirmed that England prop Kyle Sinckler missed the game due to a hip injury, but is hopeful of him being involved against Connacht.

Bristol were overpowered by a physical, unrelenting Bulls team, conceding tries to wing Sergeal Petersen, prop Khutha Mchunu, flanker Elrigh Louw and hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels, with fly-half Johan Goosen kicking three conversions and a penalty, and centre David Kriel landing one conversion.

Bulls’ bonus-point triumph owed everything to their overwhelming scrummaging superiority, with Bristol restricted to tries from scrum-half Kieran Marmion, wing Ibitoye and number eight Magnus Bradbury, plus one AJ MacGinty conversion.


Bristol were without injured internationals Callum Sheedy, Ellis Genge and Sinckler, while Bulls boss Jake White opted to rest his South Africa World Cup-winning quartet of Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden.

Bulls head coach White admitted that the absence of Sinckler and his fellow England prop Genge from Bristol’s line-up was something his team looked to exploit.

“To be fair, we did say before the game that without Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler it was an area we were going to target, so to get a return like that at scrum time is obviously very pleasing,” White said.

“The old adage of forwards winning the game and the backs determining by how much is exactly what happened today.

“I think it is the biggest win the Bulls have had in Champions Cup rugby. I am really happy with our all-round performance.

“Our destiny is in our hands now. We have got Bordeaux at home now, and if we win that then we definitely finish in the top two in the group.

“Away wins are premium. Not many away sides win in any competition, never mind the Champions Cup. An away win and a bonus point is something we will enjoy.”



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Jon 1 hours ago
How Maro Itoje terrorised the All Blacks lineout

Yeah England were much smarter, they put their much vaster experience to use in both the scrum (bending/not taking hit) and lineout (Itoje early sacks) law vagaries. Really though, I know what is there, I’m more worried about Englands locks. We only got to see Itoje and Martin, right? Depth allround in the England camp was probably the difference in the series and the drop off when Itoje reached his minutes limit for the season (it was like the plug was pulled from the charger) was up there with keeping Sexton on the park in that quarter final. What happened there? You have a lot of watching hours experience with locks come blindsides Nick, especially with a typical Australian player make up, have you see a six the size of Barrett absolutely dominate the position and his opposition? I can easily see Scott, and even Martin for that matter, moving to the blindside and playing like Tadgh Beirne with the amount of top locks we have coming through to partner Patrick. Still with the English mindset, because despite running the best All Black team I’ve seen in a long time close, they do need to find improvement, and although I thought they had a lot of good performances from their 7’s (over the years), I really like the prospect of Cunningham-South in his 8 spot and Earl on the open. Can you see Martin as mobile enough to take over Lawes? I absolutely loved his aggression when Jordie ran upto him to try and grab the ball. That alone is enough reason for me to try him there.

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