The Bulls combined strong forward play with outstanding defence to record a 28-17 win over the ACT Brumbies in the penultimate round of the 2008 edition of the Super 14 competition.
The defending champions from South Africa, who led 18-10 at the break, outscored the men from Australia three tries to two.
They occupy 10th place on the log, while the Brumbies are eighth, with just one round of matches to play. Neither side is in a position to challenge for the semifinals, a particularly disappointing aspect for the Bulls, who went all the way last year.
In an entertaining first half in which the Bulls played with 13 men for 20 minutes after the sin-binning of fullback Zane Kirchner and hooker Derick Kuun, there was little to separate the teams, but the home side did enjoy the advantage at the break.
Bulls skipper Fourie du Preez admitted his side got a bit lucky after losing two men to foul play in the first half.
”The discipline let us down in the first 40 minutes, but we got it right later on and hung on to the ball and that made it easier for us,” he said.
”It’s been a disappointing season, but we’ll come back stronger next year.”
Centre JP Nel scored his team’s first try as early as the fourth minute after a counter-attack from deep inside the Bulls’ half, and just a few minutes later flyhalf Morne Steyn knocked over his first penalty to give the defending champions a deserved 8-0 lead.
The Brumbies, though, quickly found their rhythm and at the halfway stage of the opening half, lock Alister Campbell ran a great angle to break through the Bulls defence to crash over for the five-pointer.
Captain Stirling Mortlock added the extras to close the gap to a single point.
The Bulls then lost Kirchner to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle, but instead of the Brumbies making the most of their numerical advantage, they conceded a second try, scored by Bulls flanker Wikus van Heerden.
Steyn’s conversion made it 15-7 for the home side, but with about 10 minutes to the half-time break and just moments after Kirchner had returned to the field, referee Steve Walsh sent Bulls hooker Kuun to the sin-bin for killing the ball on the ground.
The resulting penalty was converted by Mortlock, but the Bulls finished the half the happier outfit after a further penalty by Steyn.
The home side upped the momentum 10 minutes into the second period with Steyn converting a third penalty before centre Wynand Olivier beat the tackles of Mortlock and Adam Ashley-Cooper to go in next to the uprights for a converted try.
While the men from Canberra got back into the game midway through the half with a well-worked try by replacement forward Peter Kimlin, which was converted by Mortlock, the Bulls hung on for a well-deserved win.
The Bulls face the Cheetahs next week, while the Brumbies are up against the Western Force. — AFP