Vodacom Bulls edged out in Bloemfontein

The Vodacom Bulls suffered a 34-28 defeat to the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, dropping a second result in as many weeks in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament. The Vodacom Bulls again had a bad first half and despite outplaying the Cheetahs in the second, could not overhaul the hosts on the scoreboard.

While the scoreline might seem a lot closer thanks to two late tries that gave the Bulls a chance to sneak a victory at the end, the Cheetahs were by far the superior side, outscoring the Bulls five tries to three and ensuring their loss against the Emirates Lions the week before was a blip, reports Brenden Nel of SuperSport.com

But the Cheetahs may have paid a massive price for the win as both Uzair Cassiem and Ox Nche limped off the field with injuries that could well be a lot more serious when the final diagnosis is made.

Still, the difference between the two sides was clear, as the exuberance that the Cheetahs employed, attacking space through offloads and flummoxing the Bulls defence was a far contrast to the Bulls stuttered start for the majority of the game.

Clearly something isn’t right in the Pretoria side, as they manage – much like the previous week at Newlands – to put together several phases, but then manage at a crucial stage to make the wrong decision, throw the wrong pass, or simply not be able to handle the ball as a player of this standard should.

It was quite a stark contrast in the two loose trios, as the Cheetahs loosies were everywhere, with Mohoje, Cassiem and Tier Schoeman prominent around the park while Jacques Potgieter tried hard, but didn’t make much of an in impact and his fellow loosie Nic de Jager was anonymous for the second week in a row.

The Cheetahs made it quite clear they were looking for a fast-paced game and for most of it they were able to keep the Bulls guessing, running them around the park to their advantage to lead 34-11 at one point and look to have the game sewed up.

A massive 511 running metres tells a story of a side playing with confidence and finding space, while the Bulls 18 missed tackles were ultimately what cost them in the end.

Add to that a lineout that didn’t function properly – one of the normal strengths of the Bulls – and the Cheetahs already had an upper hand. By stealing four lineouts from one of the best lineouts in the competition, they disrupted the Bulls setpiece enough to keep them on top.

And when they had the ball, the Cheetahs found space and teammates looking for space, offloading with ease in comparison to the poor passing the Bulls put themselves under pressure from on several occasions during the game.

The Cheetahs started their onslaught early on, grabbing the lead in the second minute already when Clinton Swart took an inside ball to beat the defence with ease but the Bulls hit back five minutes later when Rudy Paige fed a perfect pass to galloping lock Jason Jenkins to soldier through untouched to get the visitors on the scoreboard.

After probing the Bulls defence several times and making ground upfield, Mohoje suddenly signalled a change of pace to break through and score his first, giving the advantage to the Cheetahs.

Handre Pollard started pulling back the scoreline differential, adding two penalties but the momentum they built up was hit hard as the Cheetahs went over on the half hour through a clever lineout move between Rayno Benjamin and Justin Basson with the lock going over for the try. Replays showed it may well have been forward, but the referee allowed it just the same.

Benjamin made Mohoje’s second try with a linebreak of note, before giving the ball to Tian Meyer who then allowed the loose forward to go over and extend the lead over the Bulls.

Zeilinga added a penalty in the second half before the Bulls threw everything into a comeback, but just couldn’t get the required breakthrough they needed.

That was, until the bench came on, whereafter the Bulls suddenly found space to score two excellent tries that brought them surging into the game.

First it was Piet van Zyl who rounded off a movement and then Jamba Ulengo finished a move in excellent fashion to bring them within three of the opposition.

But a final Zeilinga penalty put them too far out and the Cheetahs held out for the last few minutes to record only their second Super Rugby victory over the Bulls in Bloemfontein in the competition’s history

Scorers

Toyota Cheetahs – tries: Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (2), Clinton Swart, Fred Zeilinga, Justin Basson. Conversions: Zeilinga (3). Penalties: Zeilinga (2)

Vodacom Bulls – tries: Jason Jenkins, Piet van Zyl, Jamba Ulengo. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties: Handre Pollard (3).

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