Otere Black slotted a late penalty to claim a 23-21 victory for the Blues in Pretoria and hand the Vodacom Bulls their third loss of the season. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The wet conditions prescribed a more pragmatic approach, and in that regard, the Bulls did not disappoint. Morne Steyn kicked well for territory and was flawless in front of goal.
The Bulls’ discipline, however, contributed in no small part to the defeat. They conceded soft penalties at key moments to let the Blues off the hook or – as seen at the death – gift the opposition significant scoring chances.
The officials made some questionable calls, though. Referee Marius van Westhuizen appeared to get it wrong when he sent Burger Odendaal to the sin bin for foul play in the 25th minute.
Odendaal looked to have done everything right when he chased a box kick and then flattened the recipient, Emoni Narawa, with a fierce tackle. When Narawa bent low to catch the kick, however, Odendaal’s shoulder caught him in the throat.
Despite there being no intent by Odendaal to injure Narawa, and despite the fact that the tackle was made to look worse by Narawa bending to catch the ball, Odendaal was shown a yellow card.
The Bulls showed a lot of guts to defend with 13 men – Andries Ferreira had been given yellow moments earlier – for the next five minutes. The Blues managed to score during that period, though, and take a slender 8-6 lead.
Van der Westhuizen brandished yet another yellow card in the dying stages of the half. Blues scrumhalf Jonathan Ruru was sent to the bin after slowing down the ball under his own posts.
From the ensuing penalty, the Bulls applied the pressure at the scrum and then set up Steyn for a brilliant score. That try marked the Bulls’ first five-pointer of the season. It also allowed the hosts to take an 11-8 lead into the sheds.
The Blues made an early statement after the break when they scored two well-worked tries. They struggled to contain the Bulls in the closing stages, though, and conceded a string of penalties in the red zone.
Hoskins Sotutu received the fourth yellow card of the game in the 69th minute. As the No 8 departed, the Bulls’ chances of snatching another try – and their first win of the season – improved considerably.
The Bulls made the one-man advantage count at the scrum. Jeandre Rudolph scooped up the ball and dived across the line to score. Manie Libbok then stepped up to nail the conversion.
The Bulls failed to close out the game from there. The Blues worked their way upfield and won the penalty. Black bisected the uprights and then lifted his hands in elation.
Bulls – Tries: Morne Steyn, Jeandre Rudolph. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalties: Steyn (3).
Blues – Tries: Mark Telea, Tom Robinson, Stephen Perofeta. Conversion: Otere Black. Penalties: Black (2).
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenkamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Ruan Steenkamp 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Blues – 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Jacob Pierce, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Aaron Carroll, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 TJ Faiane, 23 Matt Duffie.
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix