Bulls see off Lions for top spot
MATCH REPORT: The Bulls cemented their place at the top of the Currie Cup table with a 22-15 win over the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.
*As it happened: Bulls v Lions
Only one try was scored in the match, which was riddled by penalties, with Bulls’ scrumhalf Embrose Papier earning that honour.
Making the win particularly remarkable for the men from Pretoria was the fact that they had not played a match in almost a month, while it also ended a five-match winning streak for the Johannesburgers in the competition.
The first half was tight as both teams tried to use their physicality and hard running on attack to gain ascendancy, but with neither team able to breach the wall of defence, it came down to penalty goals.
Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith kicked four back-to-back penalty goals in the second quarter to push his team into a 12-9 lead over their neighbours, who in turn entered the break with three compliments of fullback Tiaan Swanepoel.
A converted try and a fifth penalty goal by experienced Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn, to another two penalty goals by Swanepoel – who scored all 15 of the Lions’ points – nudged the Bulls through for the win.
The Lions started the match on an encouraging note as they dominated possession and applied pressure on the visitors in the scrums, but the momentum switched in the 22nd minute as the hosts found their rhythm and stepped things up to win kickable penalties.
This saw Smith erase the 9-0 lead the Johannesburgers’ held in the 18th minute, and hand his side the lead for the first time going into the break.
The Bulls wasted no time building momentum in the second half as Papier received a pop pass from his captain, Springbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen, following a scrum and dodged his way through the defence to stretch over four minutes after play resumed. The successful conversion by Smith pushed them 10 points ahead.
Both teams had chances to score tries, but they were shut out by the tenacious defence, and again penalty goals came into play as Swanepoel landed back-to-back blinders from far out in the 60th and 65th minute respectively to reduce their deficit to four points.
The Lions were dealt a blow in the 76th minute as replacement prop Ruan Dreyer received a yellow card for collapsing a maul, which paved the way for Steyn to kick the team’s fifth penalty goal for a handy 22-15 lead with minutes to play.
The Bulls were also reduced to 14 men soon after as flank Marco van Staden received a yellow card for foul play in a maul, and this opened the door for the Jozi outfit to possibly force a draw, but crucial mistake metres out cost them and the Bulls earned the win.
Man of the Match: Tiaan Swanepoel continued with his impressive form for the Lions. For the Bulls Ruan Nortje along with Duane Vermeulen deserves a mention for their performance. However, our not goes to Bulls scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who had a very slow start but eventually proved his worth as found gaps and scored the only try of the match.
Pens: Smith 4, Steyn
Pens: Swanepoel 5
Yellow cards: Ruan Dreyer (Lions,72 – collapsing a maul), Marco van Staden (Bulls, 81 – cynical foul)
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Marnus Potgieter, 12 Jay-Cee Nel, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Arno Botha, 23 Tim Agaba.
Lions: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 André Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Wandisile Simelane, 23 Francke Horn.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Paul Mente, Morne Ferreira
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen