The Vodacom Bulls moved back to the top of the SA conference as they heaped more misery on the Reds with a 43-22 victory. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
A first-half try from Pierre Spies and a brace from Francois Hougaard put the Bulls 24-5 up at the break, before they sealed the bonus point as Marcel van der Merwe crossed after Reds No 8 Adam Thomson was sent to the bin early in the second half.
In the end, the Bulls ran in six tries, but it will be the four they conceded that will be an area of concern for Frans Ludeke and the Bulls coaching staff.
All looked to be going according to plan at half-time, after the Bulls opened up a comfortable lead despite enjoying less than a third of possession. They showed great urgency on defence, putting the Reds ball-carriers under immense pressure and winning the battle at the gainline.
Their tactical kicking was also much improved, while their lineout was faultless and their scrum held its own against a strong Reds scrummaging unit.
However, all that seemed to fade away after the break, as defensive lapses allowed the Reds to find a way back into the match. After spending much of the first half playing behind the gainline, the Reds started to find holes in the Bulls' defence, as Will Genia crossed for a try before setting one up for his halfback partner Nick Frisby with a delightfully weighted kick.
The Reds were well in the contest at that stage, but the yellow card to Thomson and the resultant try from Van der Merwe restored some parity and the Bulls looked comfortable for the remaining 30 minutes.
Further scores from Burger Odendaal and Piet van Zyl, following a try from South African-born Marco Kotze, completed the rout in front of just over 11,000 in attendance at Loftus.
The result moves the Bulls two points clear at the top of the South African conference ahead of their match against the Sharks in Durban next week, as the South African teams completed a clean sweep over Australian opposition for the weekend.
Bulls – Tries: Francois Hougaard (2), Pierre Spies, Marcel van der Merwe, Burger Odendaal, Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3), Tian Schoeman (2). Penalty: Potgieter.
Reds – Tries: Lachlan Turner, Will Genia, Nick Frisby, Marco Kotze. Conversion: Turner.
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jürgen Visser.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Tom Murday, 21 Adam Korczyk, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Chris Kuridrani.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images