Waratahs end their Bulls hoodoo
The Waratahs recorded their first Super Rugby win over the Bulls in almost a decade.
The 19-12 victory in a dour arm-wrestle in Sydney on Saturday ended an eight-match losing streak which started in 2005.
It was not the most aesthetically pleasing match, but marked the return of Israel Folau – who scored the only try of the match, inside the first minute.
In the end that seven-pointer proved to be the difference – the Bulls unable to crack a determined Waratahs defence that was afforded plenty of lenience by the referee.
However, the Bulls should again look inwards for the real reasons for this loss – sloppy handling and pathetic, aimless kicking costing them dearly. That is why they failed to turn their set-piece dominance into points.
In the end they got another losing bonus point, which is about all they were worth in this game.
The Bulls dominated the scrums, but with Australian referee Rohan Hoffmann continually looking the other way, the penalties mounted against the Bulls instead of the team infringing at the set pieces.
There were other questionable calls, the Bulls on the receiving end of a very lopsided penalty count in the first half – seven penalties going to the Waratahs, before two late decision (in the last two minutes of the half) gave a semblance of neutrality.
It did not help the visitors that their aimless kicking gifted the Waratahs numerous counter-attacking opportunities. The selection of Ulrich Beyers at fullback also backfired, as the man who would normally play in midfield had a nightmare game at the back.
Another selection which will again be questioned was Jono Ross as the Bulls' openside flank option. It is now glaringly obvious he is not a player of Super Rugby standard – apart from the fact that he is also not a quality flank.
And the Bulls' injury woes continued with Piet van Zyl leaving the field with a painful knee injury in the first half.
The Waratahs lost Kurtley Beale early in the second half with an ankle injury, robbing them of one of their most dangers attacking options.
Israel Folau marked his return with a try inside 30 seconds, the quickest try of the year. The Bulls failed to control; the kick-off and after a quick recycle Adam Ashley-Cooper found a hole in midfield and Folau ran a great supporting line. Bernard Foley added the extras – 7-0 in the opening minute.
Just short of the 10-minute mark Kurtley Beale had a shot from 50 metres out, but was well short. However, towards the end of the first quarter Foley made it 10-0 with a penalty. That became 13-0 in the 23rd minute, as the penalty count continued to mount against the Bulls.
The Bulls first opportunity came in the 39th minute, a scrum penalty which Jacques-Louis Potgieter slotting the three-pointer. Potgieter had another chance, right on the half-time hooter, making it 6-13 at the break.
There was another penalty early in the second half, as a cynical transgression in a ruck was punished by Potgieter – 9-13.
It stayed like that till the 63rd minute, when Foley slotted a penalty to make it a seven-point game.
And then Grant Hattingh had a brain explosion, his high hit on Michael Foley earning him 10 minutes in the sin bin. That made it 19-9, as Foley slotted his fourth penalty.
With under three minutes remaining Handré Pollard slotted a penalty to close the gap to seven – 12-19.
However, a combination of sloppy handling and determined defence allowed the Waratahs to hang on for the win.
Man of the match: Kurtley Beale caused all kinds of problems to the Bulls on attack in the first half, especially when he stepped into the first-receiver role. Will Skelton managed several good turnover, which is remarkable given his height. Jacques Potgieter made a strong statement against his former teammates. However, our award goes to Waratahs flank Michael Hooper, who caused all kinds of havoc at the breakdown and produced a few quality runs.
For the Waratahs:
Pens: Foley 4
For the Bulls:
Pens: JL Potgieter 3, Pollard
Yellow card: Grant Hattingh (Bulls, 65 – foul play, high tackle)
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Matt Carraro.
Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Johannes Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Phillip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 William Small-Smith, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Morné Mellet.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)