David Kriel scores a hat-trick as Bulls beat Zebre in URC try-fest
A clinical performance by the Bulls’ backline helped the Pretoria-based franchise down a determined and improving Zebre Parma side 54-29 at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Italy on Saturday.
The exciting United Rugby Championship match produced 12 tries with the Bulls scoring eight compared to four by the hosts.
David Kriel was the star of the Bulls show in Parma with three tries as Devon Williams and hooker Akker van der Merwe scored a brace each while Sergeal Petersen also scored on debut for the Bulls.
Bulls flyhalf Johan Goosen was exceptional with his boot as he scored six of seven kicks for the poles. Bulls co-captain Ruan Nortje was a standout performer for the side with his tackling game and was duly named player of the match.
Tries from Jacopo Bianchi, Gerónimo Prisciantelli, Scott Gregory and Lorenzo Pani earned Zebre a bonus-point in the defeat.
The Bulls were looking to use the match to get back to winning ways after they kicked off their European tour with a 26-19 defeat to Ulster last weekend.
While the Bulls looked solid and posed a threat when they were on the attack, their defensive work was not always at the required level.
It was the hosts who drew first blood in Parma as they capitalised on the Bulls’ shoddy defending to cross the whitewash after eight minutes of play through Bianchi.
The South Africans failed to deal with Zebre’s maul drive after the Italians had a line-out a few metres from the Bulls’ try line.
However, the visitors scored three quick tries in a space of 10 minutes to take control of the game.
Van der Merwe scored his first try on 16 minutes while debutant Petersen also went over four minutes later.
Van der Merwe, who joined the Jake White-coached team from Sale Sharks ahead of the current season, completed his brace on 26 minutes.
The 32-year-old is proving to be a great addition for the Bulls as he has fitted like a glove at the side.
He has already scored three tries in as many appearances for his new side. Van der Merwe was also involved in the creation of Kriel’s first try in the second half before he was substituted after 11 minutes into the final stanza.
The Bulls displayed improvement in the line-outs, an area that was a let-down a week ago at Kingspan Stadium when they lost to Ulster.
The hosts scored one more try before the halftime break when their creative flyhalf Prisciantelli beat at least three defenders to dot the ball down under the poles.
While Zebre tried to put another decent performance in the second half, the Bulls appeared to be more solid than they were in the opening 40 minutes.
The visitors opened the second half with a well-orchestrated try which was scored by Williams two minutes after the restart to secure a bonus point for the Bulls.
Kriel’s 50th-minute try almost made it look like the South Africans were up for a comfortable victory on the road.
However, the Italians’ fighting spirit was never deterred as they responded with their own two tries from Gregory and Pani to secure a bonus point.
Those tries seemed to give the hosts belief and confidence that they could claw their way back into the match, but two quick tries by Williams, his second, and Kriel’s third in the final five minutes put the game beyond Zebre.
Zebre (15) 54 Tries: Jacopo Bianchi, Gerónimo Prisciantelli, Scott Gregory, Lorenzo Pani Conversion: Prisciantelli (3) Penalties: Prisciantelli
Bulls (21) 29 Tries: Akker van der Merwe (2), Sergeal Petersen, Devon Williams (2), David Kriel (3) Conversions: Johan Goosen (6), Chris Smith
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