The Bulls secured their fourth Super Rugby win in a row as they comfortably overcame the Reds 41-22 in Pretoria on Saturday evening. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In fact, the Bulls’ one and only loss this season dates back to the opening round of the competition against the Stormers. Since then, they’ve beaten the Rebels, drawn against the Sharks and now won four games in a row.
It leaves the Pretoria-based side well placed in the Africa 1 conference as they now get set for their tour to Australia, where they will face the Force, Brumbies and Waratahs.
The scoreline might somewhat flatter the Bulls, but while the Reds certainly had their moments, they never really looked likely to cause an upset at Loftus. In the end, the Bulls will probably be most disappointed with the fact that they failed to clinch a bonus point, but the four log points attained will still suit them just fine as they head Down Under.
On a beautiful evening in Pretoria, the visitors made an encouraging start to the clash as winger Chris Feauai-Sautia exposed some disorganised Bulls defence to finish off a well-worked try.
The Bulls gradually worked their way into the game, though, and while a penalty to flyhalf Francois Brummer was all they had to show for their efforts after half an hour, it was clear that the hosts were beginning to establish their ascendancy.
A beautiful break from Jesse Kriel eventually provided the field position for prop Marcel van der Merwe to power over from close range, while four minutes before the break, another impressive buildup ultimately enabled Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss to pick up and drive over the tryline.
Suddenly, the Bulls had done enough to open up a 17-5 lead, although there would be one final moment of magic just before half-time as Reds flanker Liam Gill took the chance to slot an unexpected drop goal and help reduce the deficit to nine points.
That impressive effort would be cancelled out by another Brummer penalty soon after the restart, though, while Kriel would again emerge as one of the providers as Lappies Labuschagne was put away for a try next to the posts in the 50th minute.
At 27-8, it looked as if the Bulls were well set for a comfortable victory, but their concentration wavered and Reds centre Samu Kerevi needed no second invitation as he rounded off two tries within the next 10 minutes.
It meant just five points separated the sides heading into the final quarter, but winger Travis Ismaiel settled the Bulls’ nerves as he darted over to score in the 62nd minute and open up a bit of a buffer once again for the home side.
The result was then well and truly sealed when replacement Piet van Zyl was able to dive over to score under the posts in the 71st minute, and from there the Bulls comfortably completed another important victory.
Bulls – Tries: Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Lappies Labuschagne, Travis Ismaiel, Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Francois Brummer (5). Penalties: Brummer (2).
Reds – Tries: Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi (2). Conversions: Jake McIntyre (2). Drop goal: Liam Gill.
Bulls – 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboko, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Deon Stegmann, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dan Kriel.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru.
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images