Lions maul hapless Bulls
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Lions continued their dominance of South African rugby with a sublime 51-14 demolition of the Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday.
They outscored the Bulls by seven tries to two - five off those in the first half - to put even more space between themselves and the rest in the Africa conference.
It was not so much the margin of the victory, but the manner in which they dominated the Bulls that made the biggest statement.
Springbok Ruan Combrinck made a two-try comeback.
He made his first appearance of the four-month-old season after an injury, the wing scored after 72 seconds and the home side led 39-14 by half-time.
But after a first half that produced 53 points at Ellis Park, the second half was an anti-climax with only two tries, and the second came six seconds from time.
"We lost our way in the second half by failing to retain possession," admitted Lions livewire flank Albertus Smith.
"In the first half the team played very well, very clinically," said the South Africa Sevens star.
The bonus point helped the Lions cut the gap behind overall leaders the Crusaders to three points.
Record seven-time champions Crusaders have won all 12 matches, while the Lions' lone loss was away to Jaguares of Argentina during March with a weakened side.
Both the New Zealanders and the South Africans have three league fixtures left with the Lions schedule looking slightly easier.
Topping the combined standings gives a team home advantage in each knockout match they play.
While Lions seem destined to finish second overall at least, three-time Super Rugby champions Bulls are a pale shadow of former Pretoria outfits.
Retirements, stars lured to European and Japanese clubs by much higher salaries, and some poor signings have contributed to the demise of the giants.
It was the second humiliating defeat for Bulls in three matches after a 62-24 drubbing at home to Crusaders.
After Combrinck got his team off to the perfect start, Bulls levelled soon after when a clever inside pass sent centre Jan Serfontein over.
It was a short respite, though, as two penalties from flyhalf Elton Jantjies gave Lions a 13-7 lead by the end of th first quarter and then the floodgates opened.
Combrinck (two), Smith, prop Ruan Dreyer, No.8 and skipper Warren Whiteley, lock Franco Mostert and centre Lionel Mapoe were the Lions try scorers.
Jantjies, the probable Springboks flyhalf against France next month, slotted five conversions and two penalties from nine kicks at goal.
Serfontein and fullback Jesse Kriel scored tries for Bulls, both of which fly-half Francois Brummer converted.
Man of the match: Let's not beat about the bush - all the best players on the day were in the Lions team. Elton Jantjies produced a flyhalf masterclass, Ross Cronje provided a crisp service, Warren Whiteley showed his full array of skills, Ruan Ackermann was energetic and Albertus Smith was the most productive of the forwards, with Franco Mostert not far behind. However, our award goes to Lions wing Ruan Combrinck, who marked his return from a lengthy injury lay-off with two sublime tries - the first a great kick-and-collect in the opening minute.
For the Lions:
Tries: Combrinck 2, Smith, Dreyer, Whiteley, Mostert, Mapoe
Cons: Jantjies 5
Pens: Jantjies 2
For the Bulls:
Tries: Serfontein, Kriel
Cons: Brummer 2
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Lesego Legoete (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)