The Vodacom Bulls returned to the top of the South African conference with a thrilling 35-33 bonus-point win over the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
In the end there were a thrilling contest that ebbed and flowed right until the final minute, reports SA Rugby Magazine.
The Lions had come into the match on the back of five consecutive wins, but were unable to end their search for a first win at Loftus, despite a spirited second-half display.
The Bulls dominated the first half and deserved the 25-13 lead they held after the first stanza. They dominated the collisions at the gainline and the breakdown, while the Lions made numerous mistakes in the face of some vociferous defence.
Piet van Zyl got the Bulls off to a superb start, as some quick-thinking allowed him to go over from close range in the fifth minute. He'd have his second a few minutes later.
It did not take long for the Lions to respond, with the men from Johannesburg scoring a fine try of their own. Ruan Combrinck found a gaping hole in the Bulls midfield and burst downfield before finding Faf de Klerk, who showed great hands at full pace to gather and race clear to score.
However, that try came against the run of play and order was restored as Handré Pollard extended the Bulls' lead with two penalties. Elton Jantjies reduced the deficit but the Bulls responded with another try from JJ Engelbrecht, who showed an impressive turn of pace to round Combrinck and go in for a try.
Another Jantjies penalty gave the Lions hope heading into the break, as they looked to fight their way back into the match.
And it was some fightback. The Lions used their ascendancy at scrum time to manoeuvre a way back into the match. They dominated the third quarter of the match, overturning a 12-point half-time deficit to lead 26-25 with 20 minutes remaining.
However, Johan Ackermann's decision to replace his starting front row handed the impetus back to the Bulls, who regained their composure along with the lead.
It was a Bulls replacement, Pierre Spies, who would get the match-defining try. His quick tap caught the Lions defence napping, and he powered his way over with four Lions defenders on his back.
Pollard added another penalty to extend the Bulls' lead and despite a well-deserved try for Jaco Kriel, the Lions simply weren't able to claw their way back into the lead again.
Bulls – Tries: Piet van Zyl (2), JJ Engelbrecht, Pierre Spies. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3). Penalties: Pollard (3).
Lions – Tries: Faf de Klerk, Jacques van Rooyen, Jaco Kriel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Jantjies (4).