Brumbies edge willing Bulls
Brumbies edge willing BullsSHARE
The Brumbies will play the Chiefs in the Super Rugby Final in Hamilton next week, after edging the Bulls 26-23 with a last-minute winner in Pretoria on Saturday.
In a game of many 'what ifs', the Brumbies raced into an early advantage, only for the Bulls to come back and claim the lead late in the second half.
However, in a thrilling finish Tevita Kuridrani scored a late match-winner, to hand the Bulls their first defeat at Loftus Versfeld this year.
There will be many questions asked, mostly about the Bulls' slow start and some of their decision making – especially in the last 15 minutes.
However, the Brumbies scored when it matter most – a try at the death. They also outscored the Bulls by two tries to one.
The Brumbies used their well-established tactic of hoofing the ball into the opposition half and they certainly won the kicking battle.
Jesse Mogg was clearly enjoying the rarified air of Pretoria and kept driving the Bulls back.
It didn't help the Bulls that referee Craig Joubert was making some questionable calls – both at scrum time and in general play.
However, the biggest issue was probably the Bulls forwards' poor workrate in the first half, at the breakdown and on defence, allowing the Brumbies' powerful runners plenty of time and space.
After the break the Bulls showed more urgency.
It was clear the men from Pretoria were beginning to exert pressure and getting an edge up front, dominating the possession. And with the change in momentum, came a change in fortune – the calls finally beginning to go their way.
What was amazing was that the Bulls also started dominating the scrums, even winning a penalty late in the second half.
But there was to be one last twist and it came in the form of a Matt Toomua break that set up Tevita Kuridrani for the match-winner.
It took the Brumbies less than two minutes to get on the board – Christian Lealiifano kicking a penalty after the referee found fault with the Bulls at the breakdown.
In the eighth minute Lealiifano had another shot at goal, after a scrum penalty went to the Brumbies, but it drifted wide.
However, the visitors did not have to wait long – with Jesse Mogg taking a back-handed pass from Henry Speight, after the later had brushed a couple of feeble tackles by the Bulls. Lealiifano added the extras – 10-0 after 12 minutes.
The Bulls' response was swift and clinical – JJ Engelbrecht going over for the try after a great fend on Speight, after the Bulls took the ball through phases and played it from side to side to great effect. Morné Steyn, who had missed a penalty earlier, also failed with the conversion attempt – 5-10 after 16 minutes.
When Ben Mowen interfered with Dewald Potgieter at a line-out in the 22nd minute, Steyn finally landed a kick – the penalty making it 8-10.
However, the referee again found fault with the Bulls at the tackle – Dean Greyling penalise for not rolling away. Lealiifano made it 13-8.
Lealiifano executed a ridiculous late hit on Steyn, but the Bulls got an offside advantage further upfield – Steyn narrowing the gap to 11-13.
Four minutes before the break another scrum penalty went against the Bulls and Lealiifano made it 16-11 – which is how it stayed till half-time.
The Bulls got the second half off to a flying start, pouncing after the Brumbies failed to collect a high bomb and the home team taking it through multiple phases till Grant Hattingh went over the line. The TMO ruled that the ball was held up, but they were brought back for a penalty after the Brumbies went offside in desperation.
Steyn slotted the penalty to narrow the gap to 14-15 – to give the Bulls some reward for what was their best period of the match.
Another questionable scrum penalty to the Brumbies allowed Lealiifano to restore his team's five-point lead – 19-14 after 49 minutes.
Ben Mowen was next to be penalised, for not supporting his own bodyweight and leaning on his elbows at the breakdown. Steyn stepped up to make it a two-point game again – 17-19.
The Bulls started to gain some ascendancy and when the Brumbies were penalised after the Bulls stole a line-out throw, Steyn slotted the kick to put the Bulls into the lead for the first time – 20-19.
With 13 minutes left on the clock the Bulls won a penalty from a sublime kick by Jano Vermaak, but from the line-out a forward pass stopped the Bulls' attack.
The decision not to take the easy three points looked wrong,, but the Brumbies remained under pressure and conceded another penalty almost immediately. Again Steyn set up a line-out inside the Brumbies 22. Gain the Bulls failed to convert.
With eight minutes on the clock the Bulls won another penalty, again at the breakdown, and still the Bulls persisted with setting up line-outs inside the Brumbies 22 – still not getting the ball over the line.
However, with four minutes remaining the Bulls won a scrum penalty and this time Steyn slotted the kick – giving his team an invaluable 23-19 lead.
However, the Brumbies were not done yet and Tevita Kuridrani went over after Matt Toomua exposed two Bulls tight forwards on defence. Lealiifano added the extras and with just second on the clock they had a 26-23 lead.
They played the clock very well and took the victory.
Man of the match: Jacques Potgieter put his body on the line, both on defence and in terms of ball carries. Morné Steyn still read a game better than most and he gain proved he is not the dour, kicking flyhalf many critics perceives him to be. Christian Lealiifano's goal-kicking was invaluable, while Jesse Mogg's boot was vital in driving the Bulls back into their half. Scott Fardy's workrate is also worth mentioning. However, the undoubted man of this match was veteran flank George Smith, who made a real nuisance of himself at the breakdown – showing his class and experience.
Moment of the match: You will look back at those decisions by the Bulls late in the second half not to kick at goal, when they had the lead and some easy penalties – as they got no reward for their three attempted mauls from line-outs inside the Brumbies 22. However, our award goes to the Tevita Kuridrani try in the 79th minute – it was, after all, the match winner.
Villain of the match: None in this match, not even the referee – although we must question a number of his calls. However, he was not the reason the Bulls lost.
For the Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 5
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Mogg, Kuridrani
Cons: Lealiifano 2
Pens: Lealiifano 4
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Jürgen Visser.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Andrew Smith, 22 Joseph Tomane.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)