Bulls tackle Lions into submission
Not only did they outscore the Lions by three tries to two, they also outmuscled the visitors from south of the Jukskei river.
Ultimately the foundation for victory was laid by a superior set of forwards and outstanding defence.
The Bulls' defence made a mockery of the Lions' supposed superior attack for large parts of the game. They certainly won the contact areas.
In contrast, the Lions looked naive in their persistence with a helter-skelter approach, when the game called for a bit more patience.
It also didn't help that the Lions constantly turned the ball over, gifting the Bulls plenty of free possession.
The Bulls were in danger of losing ground on the tournament pace-setters, but the win ensured they moved ahead of the defending-champion Lions – who are now outside the play-off zone in fifth place.
From the outset, the Bulls showed greater determination, especially in the contact areas.
With flyhalf Tian Schoeman in good kicking form, the Bulls took a handy 9-3 lead.
The Lions, who showed only flashes of their attacking brilliance, produced a rare moment of magic – two powerful surges from Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Andries Coetzee created the opportunity for Howard Mnisi to go over for the opening try in the 25th minute.
However, the error-prone Lions handed momentum straight back to the Bulls when Mnisi threw a shocking pass, which was intercepted by Bulls wing Travis Ismaiel, who sprinted 50 metres to reclaim the lead for the home side.
The Bulls' defensive resilience truly came to the fore in the closing exchanges of the first half, when they contained a series of powerful surges by the visitors – which saw the Bulls take a 16-10 lead at the break.
The Bulls' maul, which was mostly contained by the Lions, provided the platform for the first score in the second half – lock Marvin Orie spinning away when the Lions' threatened to hold them up and then barges over for the try – 21-10 after a missed conversion attempt.
With the Lions now chasing the game, the Bulls could rely on their defence to force errors.
The Lions again produced a rare moment if brilliance when Sevens Springbok Albertus Smith finished off a try just before the hour mark – 17-21 going into the final quarter.
However, Schoeman's boot increased the lead again and then replacement Joshua Stander sealed the win with another well-worked try in the 75th minute.
Man of the match: Rohan Janse van Rensburg found a few gaps in the Bulls' defence, while Andries Coetzee also looked dangerous from fullback. Sevens Springbok Albertus Smith produced the energy that got the Lions back into the game, but he made his share of mistakes. Pierre Schoeman, Arno Botha, Ruan Steenkamp, Marvin Orie and Hanro Liebenberg provided the physical presence that upset the Lions' rhythm. Roelof Smit also made a massive impact at the breakdown when he came on as a replacement. However, our award goes to Bulls lock Rudolph Snyman – who was the real difference, not just putting immense pressure on the Lions' line-out, but also doing incredible work on defence and in carrying the ball up.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries:Ismaiel, Orie, Stander
Cons: Schoeman 2
Pens: Schoeman 4
For the Golden Lions:
Cons: Boshoff 2
Blue Bulls: 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha (captain), 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Victor Sekekete, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Jacques Nel.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Francois Pretorius, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Johan Greeff