The Brumbies scored two late tries, while playing with 14 men, to beat the Bulls 38-28 at Loftus on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Bulls were leading 25-24 with 20 minutes to go when Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga’a was sent off for a head-butt. At that stage, it looked like the hosts would go on to claim an important win to keep their quarter-final hopes alive. After all, a red card to Brumbies lock Rory Arnold at Ellis Park last weekend, when the game was also in the balance, had helped the Lions to claim an ultimately convincing win.
However, there was to be no repeat this time for the visitors. While Handré Pollard kicked a penalty for the Bulls to make it 28-24, the Brumbies hit back with two converted tries – in the 71st and 76th minutes – to stun the Loftus crowd into silence.
First, Tom Banks scored a sensational try from just outside his 22, breaking through a poor tackle from Jesse Kriel and running around Warrick Gelant. Andrew Muirhead then dived over in the left-hand corner after a sustained attack to secure an unlikely win.
The result sees the Bulls remain in 10th position on the overall log, six points behind the eighth-placed Rebels (who have a game in hand), while the Brumbies climb from 14th to 12th.
The Bulls started this match strongly. After some good work by Johnny Kotze on the left wing, Pollard took the ball flat and broke through the tackles of Scott Sio and Sam Carter to score a self-converted try.
The Brumbies hit back straight from the restart. Kriel’s pass failed to find Burger Odendaal and the visitors sent the ball wide to Kyle Godwin, who ran around Nic de Jager to score. Christian Lealiifano kicked the conversion and then added a penalty.
The hosts regained the lead in the 19th minute when Roelof Smit received possession in the 22, beat a defender and then had enough strength to power through a cover tackle to score.
The Bulls dominated the second quarter of the match and came close to scoring through driving mauls on a couple of occasions. The Brumbies, though, were able to keep them out and could have trailed by just one point at the break had Lealiifano been successful with a penalty after the half-time hooter.
The Bulls would have been disappointed with their scrum efforts in the first half – tighthead prop Conraad van Vuuren struggled – and frustrated that Brumbies fetcher David Pocock had been able to slow down their ball so effectively.
The visitors made a strong start to the second half when Pocock peeled off a lineout and Joe Powell darted away from the resultant ruck before putting Lachlan McCaffrey away for a converted try.
Pollard slotted a penalty for the Bulls to make it 17-17 and they then hit the front when Gelant threw a dummy, drew a defender and gave the try-scoring pass to Kotze. Pollard kicked the conversion and a penalty to give his side an eight-point cushion.
Fainga’a then went from hero to zero, scoring a try from close range before being sent off for a head-butt on replacement Matthys Basson.
Surprisingly, though, it didn’t cost his team the game.
Bulls – Tries: Handré Pollard, Roelof Smit, Johnny Kotze. Conversions: Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (3).
Brumbies – Tries: Kyle Godwin, Lachlan McCaffrey, Folau Fainga’a, Tom Banks, Andrew Muirhead. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (3), Wharenui Hawera (2). Penalty: Lealiifano.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marco van Staden, 7 Nic de Jager, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Matthys Basson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 André Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Andrew Muirhead, 10 Christian Lealiifano (co-c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Lachlan McCaffrey, 5 Sam Carter (co-c), 4 Blake Enever, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Nick Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Andrew Smith.
Photo: Kim Ludbrook/BackpagePix