Strong second-half secures victory for Blue Bulls
The Vodacom Blue Bulls ran in three unanswered second-half tries on their way to a scrappy 22-18 (half-time 7-11) win over the Cell C Sharks in their provincial tournament match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday.
The hosts found themselves trailing by 11 points after 53 minutes but tries to inside centre Marquit September, his second of the match, and two tries from right wing Kefentse Mahlo helped the Blue Bulls to a narrow win as they outscored their opponents by four tries to two.
Both teams have had disappointing seasons with the two outfits having won just five games between them from 15 matches coming into the game.
The Sharks XV opened the scoring through a seventh-minute penalty from left wing Marcel Coetzee before the Blue Bulls struck back, in the 13th minute, when they made full use of an attacking scrum five metres from the Sharks line with September taking a flat ball to slip through a tackle to score between the posts for a converted try.
The visitors narrowed the gap to one point thanks to Coetzee’s second penalty but both teams were battling to find much continuity.
But the Sharks XV finally put a few phases together before right wing Morne Joubert swapped passes with scrumhalf Hanco Venter before the wing dived over in the corner for an unconverted try as the visitors moved into an 11-7 lead after 26 minutes.
The Sharks XV had the better of the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The visitors finally made their dominance count when a series of forward drives saw outside centre Sibusiso Sithole dive over from close range for a converted try as the Sharks XV moved into an 18-7 lead after 53 minutes.
But the Blue Bulls struck back almost immediately when lock Abongile Nonkontwana charged down an attempted clearance with Mahlo on hand to score an unconverted try to narrow the gap to six points.
The Sharks XV were reduced to 14 men in the 61st minute when flank Christiaan De Bruin was yellow carded for killing the ball illegally and the Blue Bulls took immediate advantage when September barged his way over for an unconverted try to leave the visitors clinging to a one-point lead.
Replacement flyhalf Tony Jantjies provided the Bulls with an injection of life and he sparked a backline move that saw Mahlo who dive over in the corner to secure the bonus-point try as the Bulls moved into a 22-18 lead.
The Sharks XV threw everything they had into attack and the Bulls were reduced to 14 men when lock Marvin Orie was yellow carded for side entry at a ruck with the hooter having already sounded.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Marquit September (2), Kefentse Mahlo (2); Conversion: Kurt Webster
Cell C Sharks XV – Tries: Morne Joubert, Sibusiso Sithole; Conversion: Duncan Campbell; Penalties: Marcel Coetzee (2).