VIDEO: Bulls cement top spot in Ellis Park thriller
SUPER RUGBY UNLOCKED MATCH REPORT: The Bulls cemented their place at the top of the standings with a thrilling win over the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The teams scored three tries each in a bruising encounter, but the boot of veteran Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn saw the Bulls claim a 30-25 win.
With Steyn in the driving seat, the Bulls played the territory game almost to perfection.
The Lions, in contrast, preferred to keep the ball in hand and play a high-tempo game.
Another big difference was the Bulls’ more clinical play at the breakdown, where they often turned over the Lions when the hosts were on the attack.
The Lions’ scrum was a great asset in the first half, winning them several penalties.
It did not help the Bulls that – after losing loose forward Elrigh Louw in the 12th-minute – lost props Trevor Nyakane and Jacques van Rooyen to injury.
However, replacements Corniel Els, Gerhard Steenekamp and Marcel van der Merwe managed to turn the tables in some of the scrums.
The visitors’ greater urgency, especially after the break, is what caused the Lions most of their problems.
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In the opening five minutes, Elton Jantjies and Morné Steyn exchanged penalties.
The Bulls pack quickly got into their groove and a couple of line-outs near the Lions line resulted in a powerful maul and an armchair ride for Joe van Zyl. Steyn added the conversion for a 10-3 lead after 15 minutes.
Ten minutes later the Lions’ attacking game finally reaped rewards – several phases setting up former Bulls captain Burger Odendaal to dive over in the left corner for his team’s opening try. Gianni Lombard, entrusted with the conversion, was wide of the mark – 8-10.
Two minutes from the break the Lions set up a couple of line-out mauls inside the Bulls 22. The first resulted in a second penalty, with the new maul sacked illegally. However, scrumhalf Morné van den Berg sniped over from close range for the second try. Jantjies, back from an earlier blood bin, kicked the conversion – 15-10, which is how it stayed to the half-time break.
The first score after the break was a Steyn penalty, 13-15 after 43 minutes.
This was followed by a couple of penalties to the Bulls near the Lions’ line, from which they set up mauls.
The Bulls’ line-out went horribly wrong, but an equally dreadful pass by Elton Jantjies gifted Stedman Gans a soft try. Steyn’s conversion made it 20-15 after 50 minutes.
Steyn slotted a penalty in the 57th minute to stretch the lead to 23-15.
It was now the turn of the Lions to set up a few mauls near the Bulls’ line. However, they made a meal of the second maul and allowed the Bulls to clear their lines.
However, it mattered not, as Courtnall Skosan and Wandisile Simelane combined – some sublime counter-attacking resulting in Simelane going over for a crucial try. Jantjies added the conversion – 22-23 with 13 minutes remaining on the clock.
The Bulls continued to build efficiently and with accuracy, setting up Kurt-Lee Arendse for a wonderful team try. Steyn made it an eight-point game (30-22) with the conversion.
The game finished with a Lions penalty, which Jantjies slotted to earn his team a losing bonus point – 25-30.
Man of the match: Elton Jantjies had his moments, although he threw a shocker of a pass that gifted the Bulls a try. His bravery on defence should also never be overlooked. In the backline Courtnall Skosan, Wandisile Simelane and Burger Odendaal impressed. Morné Steyn again showed his experience in managing the game. Travis Ismaiel was sublime in the air and always threatening with ball in hand. Duane Vermeulen produced another captain’s innings. Our award goes to Bulls flank Marco van Staden. Apart from some crucial steals at the breakdown, he also did a mountain of work on defence – making a match-high 15 tackles and a handful of carries.
For the Lions
Tries: Odendaal, Van den Berg, Simelane
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 2
For the Bulls
Tries: Van Zyl, Gans, Arendse
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 3
Lions: 15 Gianni Lombard; 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morné van den Berg; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referee: Cwengile Jadezweni, Egon Seconds
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen