The Bulls kept their play-off hopes alive with a resounding 44-23 bonus-point victory over the Brumbies on Friday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
There was only ever one team in this game, and it was a question of when, rather than if the Bulls would score their fourth try.
That said, they certainly took their time. The Bulls paid the Brumbies a great deal of respect, which one could appreciate, given what transpired in the infamous 2013 semi-final at Loftus Versfeld.
In that fixture against the Brumbies, the Bulls were made to regret decisions to kick penalties to touch instead of for goal. On this occasion, they made almost every opportunity count, as goal-kicker Jacques-Louis Potgieter converted eight of his nine shots on goal.
The forwards were in fantastic form, as was Potgieter, who ensured the Bulls played the game in opposition territory. The visitors were on the back foot for much of the first half, and for the initial stages of the second when flyhalf Matt Toomua was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.
The Brumbies defence was exposed as early as the ninth minute when Victor Matfield glided through the gap, beat another defender with an outrageous dummy, and then finally put Jan Serfontein away to score. The Bulls continued to apply the pressure, and their clinical finishing allowed them to take a 23-6 lead into the break.
Bjorn Basson scored a try against the run of play soon after Toomua was yellow-carded. Potgieter kicked the conversion and continued to convert kickable opportunities when his captain pointed to the posts.
It was only in the final 10 minutes when the Bulls changed tactics and began to push for the bonus-point try. The Brumbies were punished for repeated infringements, with Josh Mann-Rea being sent to the sin bin, and the Bulls opted to set the lineout from the penalty. The set piece was expertly executed, and the Bulls' maul culminated in Jono Ross scoring his second try of the night.
The result is massive one for the Bulls, who are still in the running for the play-offs. The Brumbies remain in the top six despite their second straight defeat in South Africa.
Bulls – Tries: Jan Serfontein, Jono Ross (2), Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2), Handré Pollard. Penalties: Potgieter (6).
Brumbies – Tries: Henry Speight, Ben Mowen, Tevita Kuridrani. Conversion: Christian Leali'ifano. Penalties: Leali'ifano (2).
Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (c), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongo Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
It was Jan Serfontein's elusive running in the first half that ensured that the Bulls took control on the scoreboard. Serfontein didn't have to do much more than catch the ball for the hosts' first try, but his offload to Jono Ross for the Bulls' second was pure genius.
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Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images