Tevita Kuridrani scored a hat-trick as the Brumbies claimed a 22-10 bonus-point win against the Vodacom Bulls in Canberra on Friday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Brumbies have strengthened their position at the top of the Australian conference with this result. Conversely, the Bulls’ failure to secure so much as a losing bonus point may see them relinquish their status as leaders of the South African division before the end of the round.
The Bulls have blown hot and cold all season. The last time they won two games in a row was when they beat the Lions and Sharks in rounds three and four.
Duane Vermeulen told SARugbymag.co.za earlier this week that the side was aware of the trend. The stand-in skipper promised a big performance against the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Bulls lived up to the hype in that they threw themselves into the collisions and competed fiercely at the breakdowns. By the end of the half, they had forced a whopping five defensive turnovers.
The Brumbies battled to live with the Bulls forwards in the early stages of the contest. The hosts committed a series of cynical infringements on their own tryline, and flanker Tom Cusack was eventually shown a yellow card in the 15th minute.
The Bulls scrum powered through the Brumbies to capitalise on the numerical advantage and score a try. It was the last time in the half, however, where the Bulls showed any dominance.
Some poor discipline and worse decision-making by the Bulls allowed the Brumbies to work their way upfield. And when the moment to strike arrived, Tevita Kuridrani punched through the line to score his second try.
Christian Lealiifano converted to ensure that the Brumbies went to the break with a 12-10 lead. The momentum of the game had shifted, and the hosts were starting to take control.
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Brumbies 12-10 Bulls
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The Bulls missed 16 tackles in the first half alone. They struggled to repel men such as Kuridrani in the wider channels, just as they had failed to contain the Crusaders’ potent backs at Loftus Versfeld two weeks earlier.
Henry Speight flew through a gap in the Bulls backline to stretch the Brumbies’ lead to seven points. They continued to run at the visitors and continued to find space and scoring chances out wide.
Centre Irae Simone fired a long pass to Kuridrani in the 57th minute. The centre, standing out on the wing, proceeded to score and complete his hat-trick.
Lealiifano went on to miss his third conversion attempt of the evening, and so the Brumbies were 12 points ahead as the game headed into the fourth quarter. The flyhalf missed a penalty attempt in the 72nd minute – a three-pointer that would have put the game beyond the Bulls’ reach.
In the end, it did not matter. The Brumbies did enough to stop the Bulls from scoring again and claiming a losing bonus point.
Brumbies – Tries: Tevita Kuridrani (3), Henry Speight. Conversion: Christian Leali’ifano.
Bulls – Try: Hanro Liebenberg. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalty: Libbok.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Tom Cusack, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Connal Mcinerney, 17 James Slipper, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Murray Douglas, 21 Rob Valentini, 22 Ryan Lonergan, 23 Tom Wright.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 André Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw.
Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images