The Bulls returned to a more traditional pattern of play and found a cutting edge in the remarkable sevens skills of Rosko Specman to record a fine 32-17 win over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.
Pote Human’s troops focused on a more direct game built on dominating the collisions and robust defence, a move that worked a treat as they capitalised on their opponents’ mistakes to score their points.
Even if the pack laid the foundation, the influence of game-breakers like Specman couldn’t be denied.
Brawn and brains can indeed co-exist to spectacular effect.
Who was the star in this match?
Specman was a strong contender, as well as Duane Vermeulen, who recovered from a few butterfingered moments from the kickoff to deliver another robust performance. Yet it was the evergreen Schalk Brits, who turned 38 on Thursday, who showcased his enduring value. The veteran hooker was all over the field, particularly on defence, where he completed 17 tackles and claimed a turnover. It was all-action.
Key moments and themes
- Given how lacklustre they were in that regard last week against the Crusaders, the Bulls transformed their defence in this game. It will be a real source of pride for the coaching staff, particularly defence coach Pine Pienaar. The men from Loftus got their linespeed right most of the time and were excellent in repelling the hosts when they attacked the line from close quarters. 156 tackles, of which only 21 were missed, illustrated the improvement.
- Despite scoring four tries, the Bulls’ attack was based on counterattacking, where they feasted on the Rebels’ mistakes while also making sure that they make their opportunities count. More importantly, it makes one wonder again why they tried to beat the Crusaders at their own game last week. Human’s troops are at their most effective if they go direct. Surely there can’t be complaints about that?
- Proof of their cutting edge was centre Burger Odendaal’s try, where Pollard found Specman with a skip pass, who kicked forward and secured well. He then threw a gridiron pass to Odendaal. That was some brilliant skill. Pollard’s solo try, where he sidestepped two defenders, was also impressive.
- The Rebels will continue to frustrate Aussie (and even neutral observers). Dave Wessels’ men dominated the first half and created a fair few opportunities. But their attack did lack direction and variation and their handling remains poor. They also failed to match the Bulls in the physical stakes later on.
Rebels – Tries: Marika Koroibete (2), Will Genia. Conversion: Quade Cooper.
Bulls – Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Handre Pollard, Burger Odendaal, Rosko Specman. Conversions: Pollard (3). Penalties: Pollard (2).