The Vodacom Bulls took another step closer to securing a playoff spot as they pummeled the Brumbies 44-23 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, reports SuperSport.com.
Needing a victory to keep them in the hunt, the Bulls scored four tries – although there were some worried faces as they only turned their dominance into a bonus point five minutes from the end – to take the five points on offer and make the Australian form team look rather ordinary on the night.
In the process they also did the Sharks a massive favour, as the Brumbies loss underlined the Sharks spot at the top of the log, and made it all the more likely the Durban side will finish the series in pole position to guarantee a home semi and final.
The victory moved the Bulls up from ninth spot to sixth, and although that can still change after the rest of the weekend’s fixtures, they are within touching distance of a playoff spot after a disasterous tour overseas and a season where they were not as successful as they would have wanted to be.
There is no doubt about their power at Loftus Versfeld, and while the Brumbies may have arrived in Canary yellow – or be that Brumby gold as they say down under – they certainly were anything but the team we’ve seen in this competition this year. Two yellow cards and an inability to counter the Bulls scrum, lineout and attack all contributed to their downfall on a chilly Highveld evening.
But the Bulls looked simply awesome on their home ground, and played the opposition perfectly, dominating the setpieces and looking menacing on attack as they controlled the game from start to finish.
The Bulls led 23-6 at the break, and although they let in some tries late in the game, they were never in danger of losing. The scoreline in fact, could have been bigger if they had not been conservative at times, and trusted their own instinct to go for the tryline.
It was simply a reminder that this isn’t the same pedigree of 2010, or even 2013 for that matter. And while it may not be, on the night there was certainly nothing wrong with the way they played and at home at least, they will be hard to beat by any team in the competition.
There were some moments of brilliance – none more so than the sublime dummy thrown by Victor Matfield after he ghosted into space, and fooled Jesse Mogg into thinking he was going to pass inside, before pulling the ball back at the last moment, then putting Jan Serfontein away for the try.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter slammed home two penalties for the scoreline to read 13-0 before the Brumbies finally troubled the scorers.
But Christian Lealiifano had barely knocked over his first penalty of the night when Francois Hougaard scythed his way past the defence from a lineout, before Serfontein surged forward and planted the perfect back-flip to Jono Ross for the first of his two tries.
Things got worse early in the second half for the Brumbies, as they received the first of two yellow cards as Matt Toomua was pinned for a high swinging arm on JJ Engelbrecht, reducing them to 14 men.
Potgieter took the chance to add another penalty and the Bulls rubbed salt in the wounds as Bjorn Basson timed his run perfectly to intercept the ball and run 70 metres downfield for a try.
At 31-6 it looked all over bar the shouting but the Brumbies at least never gave up, doing their best to try and haul in the big deficit they were facing.
They grabbed one back when Henry Speight slipped between Serfontein and Potgieter for a try that looked almost too easy, but the attacking opportunities stayed few and far between.
The Bulls three times turned down opportunities to go for the corner, adding two more penalties to keep the score ticking over, and while there was never any doubt about the result, there was a worry that they wouldn’t get their fourth try.
It was amplified when the Brumbies attacked down the near sideline, with Speight throwing in a pass at the last minute that hit Grant Hattingh’s hand and fell perfectly for Ben Mowen, who went over to score.
The Bulls gained another numerical advantage when Josh Mann-Rea was yellow carded for going into a ruck in the red zone from the wrong side, and it didn’t take the Bulls long afterwards to capitalise, with Ross latching onto the back of the maul for his second try and the bonus point. Ross looked to have been concussed in the process, and had to leave the field wobbly, leaving his team with 14 men for the last five minutes as the bench had already been cleared.
The Brumbies had the final say through another Bulls mistake, as Francois Hougaard beat the opposition to a ball in a good sprint, then dropped the ball in the tackle, right in front of Tevita Kurindrani, who picked up and scored.
Kurindrani was, of course, the player that broke the Bulls’ hearts last year with a 78th minute try in the semifinal, but this time around there were no heroics at all, and the Bulls simply controlled the game to walk away with the five points.
Bulls - Tries: Jan Sefontein, Jono Ross (2), Bjorn Basson, . Conversions: Jacques Louis-Potgieter(1). Penalties: Jacques Louis-Potgieter (6)
Brumbies - Tries: Henry Speight, Ben Mowen, Tevita Kuridrani . Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Christian Lealiifano (2).