Bulls edge Waratahs at Loftus
Bulls edge Waratahs at LoftusSHARE
The Bulls stayed at the top of the South African conference with a hard-earned 30-19 win over the Waratahs in Pretoria on Saturday.
In a game that saw the Waratahs surprisingly escape any cards for cynical play, the visitors outscored the home team by three tries to two.
However, their lack of discipline allowed flyhalf Morné Steyn to kick six penalties – to go with a try and a conversion – as his team won a game of inches.
It was the Bulls' eighth straight win over the Waratahs and more than seven years since the team from Sydney last beat their rivals from Pretoria.
The Waratahs were certainly not pushovers. They tackled better than the Bulls did, they scrummed better than the Bulls did, they ran better lines than the Bulls did and they scored more tries than the Bulls did.
But the Bulls were far, far better at the line-outs and the Bulls won the tackle turnovers. And then the Bulls had Morné Steyn.
Brendan McKibbin missed two penalty kicks at goal, while Steyn goaled six. (The penalty count was 10-9 in the Bulls' favour.) But then the two McKibbin missed were the only ones he could have attempted because the Bulls had better territorial position, which had a lot to do with Steyn and Jano Vermaak and those wonky NSW line-outs.
To their credit the Bulls were part of the excitement of an exciting match for they, too, ran with the ball and wanted tries. In Arno Botha and Jan Serfontein they had two young players who made promising inroads into the Waratahs.
Three penalties gave the Bulls a 9-0 lead after 18 minutes, all three of them tackle-related. The first came in just the second minute of the match.
During this period Rob Horne had a scything break, Cam Crawford saved when the Bulls footed through, Serfontein broke and then Steyn broke as the Bulls went on a hectic attack, and Bjorn Basson chipped but Bernard Foley saved.
Then the Waratahs attacked back and forth. It all seemed enthusiastic but innocuous till the ball came to Israel Folau, going left. He stepped to leave Akona Ndungane fixed in a clumsy position and then brushed Ulrich Beyers aside before dotting down neatly in the left corner. 9-5 after 35 minutes.
For the first time in the half, the Bulls marched a maul downfield, causing consternation in the Waratahs' ranks. Dave Dennis was penalised and Steyn goaled to make the half-time score 12-5.
The Waratahs scored a try of ominous simplicity early in the second half. Michael Hooper burst between Warren Kruger and JJ Engelbrecht. Challenged he gave inside to replacement prop Paddy Ryan who, just on the field, scored. 12-12 after 43 minutes.
Juandré Kruger won an expensive line-out off the Waratahs. It was expensive as Chiliboy Ralepelle was injured in trying to recover the slap-back and it all ended with a five-metre line-out to the Waratahs. But Kruger, Matfield's disciple, won that in more orderly fashion.
Ryan was penalised at a tackle and Steyn made it 15-12 after 57 minutes.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, playing his 100th Super Rugby match, robbed the Bulls of the ball in a maul and set up a Waratah attack but Serfontein got the ball and set up a Bulls' attack. They were going left when Folau intercepted and set off for a long run to the posts. Basson tackled him from behind but the tall fullback got the ball to Palu who gave to McKibbin who ran a mazy way to get to support and Foley was over for a try. The Waratahs led 19-15 with 18 minutes to play.
This seemed to galvanise the Bulls. When Foley knocked on a simple pass back to him, the Bulls had a scrum and then bashed at the Waratahs' line till Hougaard dived over for the try. 22-19 to the Bulls with 13 minutes to play.
Three minutes later that became 25-19 when Folau held on at a tackle.
The Waratahs played phases and Botha had a long run to just five metres from the Waratahs' line. Steyn kicked a penalty out for a five-metre line-out on the Bulls' right. The Bulls bashed and then went blind where Steyn dummied and went neatly over to score. 30-19 and the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Who contributed most to the Bulls' victory? Morné Steyn. He is our Man of the Match.
For the Bulls:
Tries: Hougaard, Steyn
Pens: Steyn 6
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Folau, Ryan, Foley
Cons: McKibbin 2
Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyersr, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Lionel Mapoe.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Tom Kingston, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Mitchell Chapman, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Ben Volavola, 22 Peter Betham.
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)