Blues shock Bulls at Loftus
Ali Williams (Gallo Images)
Pretoria - The Bulls suffered their first defeat of the 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby season as they went down 29-23 to the Blues in a lacklustre performance at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria on Saturday.
The hosts were under pressure within the first 10 minutes of their encounter with the tourists leading 7-0 after only two minutes.
Six minutes later the Blues extended their lead to 10 points through the boot of their flyhalf Gareth Anscombe.
Incidentally it was the same 23-year-old that forced the Bulls team to take a breather behind the posts after an opportunistic try from a Bulls mistake.
A pass to Bulls inside centre Francois Venter was knocked on and intercepted by Anscombe who sprinted from the 22 metre line to open the scoring, converting his own try.
The hosts received a lifeline from referee Steve Walsh who sent Blues lock Ali Williams off with a yellow card for collapsing a maul.
Walsh, himself, seemed to have taken centre stage handing out penalties, left, right and centre.
Even before the half-hour mark, Walsh dished out 15 penalties between the two sides, with the Blues taking the lion’s share with 10 and the balance to the Bulls.
It took the Bulls two minutes to exploit their advantage of having one man over; with skipper Pierre Spies crossing to open his side’s scoring.
The Bulls’ reliable place kicker and flyhalf Morne Steyn uncharacteristically missed the conversion kick and missed on three more occasions at crucial stages in the match.
He, however, succeeded with his third attempt at goal reducing the Blues’ lead to two points.
Anscombe, who experienced a dream night in the Blues jersey, extended his side’s lead with a penalty with six minutes left in the half.
He followed this up by scoring his brace after the Bulls left gaping holes in their holes metres from the Blues tryline, with Anscombe converting to give his side a 20-8 lead going into the half-time break.
The Bulls scored the first points of the second half with Steyn slotting over a penalty in the 54th minute.
Anscombe once again poured cold water on the Bulls’ ambitions as he succeeded with two more penalty goals to take their lead to 26-11.
This meant the Bulls had to score more than two tries to clinch the match.
The Bulls, however, showed courage at the death as Bjorn Basson ran in two tries in the last seven minutes of the match with Steyn converting only one.
Their efforts proved to be too little too late as time ran out on the stadium clock with the Bulls missing the mark by six points.
The Blues picked up four points for their victory, but remained rooted to the bottom of the New Zealand Conference. They did however move up to 11th in the Overall log. The Bulls left with a single point for losing by seven or fewer and remained second in the South African Conference and moved up to fifth in the Overall standings respectively.
In next weekend's Round 4 action, the Blues travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers, while the Bulls have the weekend off.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht
15 Lachie Munro, 14 Sherwin Stowers, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain) 1, Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Bradley Mika, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 David Raikuna