The Blue Bulls erased a 14-point deficit to defeat the EP Kings 49-35 in Pretoria on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The bonus-point victory is a timely one for the Bulls, who came into this clash 10 log points off the top of the standings, a position held by the Sharks.
But the hosts had to do it the hard way in a match that swung one way then the other. They trailed 14-0 inside five minutes and lost centre Dan Kriel midway through the first half due to a dislocated shoulder. And while the possession stakes were even, the Kings pinned them back in their own half. It took a perfect seven-from-seven kicking display from flyhalf Tian Schoeman and a late second-half surge to complete the rescue mission.
The visitors showed attacking intent from the start and the Bulls played into their hands by speeding up the tempo of the game. But as has been the case so often for the Kings in recent times, they frustrated their opponents with solid defensive work and did well to stay in touch on the scoreboard, until the final quarter when their lack of depth was exposed and they faded away.
In the worst possible start for the Bulls, lock Marvin Orie mistimed his jump to receive the kick-off and winger Siviwe Soyizwapi pounced to secure possession for the Kings. They rotated the ball through a couple of phases before hooker Mike Willemse powered over the tryline with Bulls winger Bjorn Basson on his back. Moments later the Kings capitalised on another Bulls mistake, when speedster Burton Klaasen plucked Schoeman’s floated pass out of the air to score at the other end.
Poor start notwithstanding, there was no panicking yet from the Bulls. They simply responded with four unanswered tries – by Schoeman, Jamba Ulengo, Jannes Kirsten and Basson – coupled with two penalties, to lead 28-20.
But a double strike, either side of the break, saw the Kings regain the ascendancy at 30-28. That shook the Bulls, who took a minute to regather behind the posts. They played with more urgency and vigour after the restart and with the Kings tiring, they utilised the speed and power of the backline to cross through Burger Odendaal and Ulengo.
EP were not discouraged and wrestled back to within seven, but the Bulls would have the final say through replacement Joshua Stander, who dotted down in the right corner to seal the victory. Despite the defeat, the Kings picked up a prized four-try bonus point at Loftus.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Tian Schoeman, Jamba Ulengo (2), Jannes Kirsten, Bjorn Basson, Burger Odendaal, Joshua Stander. Conversions: Schoeman (7).
EP Kings – Tries: Mike Willemse, Burton Klaasen, Johan Tromp, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Martin Bezuidenhout. Conversions: Kobus Marais (2). Penalty: Marais (2).
Blue Bulls – 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Etienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboko.
Subs: 16 Edgar Maruthlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Irne Herbst, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Joshua Stander.
EP Kings – 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Burton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Ricky Schroeder (c), 8 Christiaan de Bruin, 7 Sebastian Ferreira, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 David Antonites, 4 Tazz Fuzani, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 15 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 19 Luke van der Smit, 20 Jacques Fick, 21 Minenhle Mthethwa, 22 Lungelo Goza.
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images