Tian Schoeman kicked 16 points as the Blue Bulls clinched an impressive 31-17 win over the Golden Lions at Loftus on Friday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Bulls came into this clash just one log point behind the fourth-placed Lions, but aware that another defeat would leave them playing catch-up rugby in order to secure a playoff berth.
Instead, the Bulls have now leapfrogged the Lions, Griquas and Cheetahs to lie second in the Premier Division standings, with Friday’s impressive result putting them back on track to clinch a spot in the top four.
It was clear to see in the early exchanges that there was a real determination and desire to the Bulls’ play, with the Pretoria-based side receiving due reward as they won a sequence of kickable penalties that were casually converted by sharpshooter Schoeman.
It enabled the Bulls to open up a handy 9-3 lead, but the Lions finally added some rhythm to their running game, and two beautiful pieces of play from Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Andries Coetzee ultimately created the opportunity for Howard Mnisi to go over for the opening try in the 25th minute.
That score threatened to swing momentum in the Lions’ favour, but Mnisi’s effort was almost immediately cancelled out when the centre then threw a poor long pass, which was snapped up by Bulls winger Travis Ismaiel, who sprinted 50m to score and restore the hosts’ advantage.
Although the Bulls were guilty of missing 16 tackles in the first half, they did well to withstand a late attacking onslaught from the Lions after almost three minutes of extra time had elapsed.
That gutsy effort enabled the Bulls to establish a 16-10 lead at the break, and they then turned to a reliable old weapon when a well-worked lineout drive provided the platform for lock Marvin Orie to barge over and score soon after the restart.
That five-pointer opened up a handy buffer for the Bulls, but as the Lions began to chase the game, so they upped the intensity of their renowned ball-in-hand game, while a number of replacements were brought on to add some extra impetus.
In typical fashion, the Lions did come roaring back into the match when Blitzboks Olympic medallist Kwagga Smith superbly finished off a try just before the hour mark to reduce the deficit to four points.
However, Schoeman edged the Bulls further ahead with another three-pointer soon after, while the result was finally put to bed when replacement Joshua Stander went over to score the home team’s third try in the 75th minute.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Marvin Orie, Joshua Stander. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties: Schoeman (4).
Golden Lions – Tries: Howard Mnisi, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalty: Boshoff.
Blue Bulls – 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha (c), 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 André Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Jacques Nel.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images