Front-foot ball and the ability to control the tempo of the game and execute their game-plan were the prime reasons for the Bulls’ success as they beat the Lions 26-21 in their Currie Cup semifinal at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
A superbly-controlled first half by the Bulls gave them an 11-0 lead, but there was a second-half wobble when the gutsy Lions fought back to level the score at 14-14 with two tries.
But the Bulls then regrouped, and helped tremendously by the Lions’ ill-discipline which saw both locks, Marvin Orie and Willem Alberts, yellow-carded in the space of three minutes, they scored two tries to settle the issue.
The Lions scored a consolation try after the final hooter through centre Burger Odendaal, but they were a beaten side by then.
The Bulls’ dominance started with an excellent scrummaging display and, even though the Lions did win a couple of penalties at that set-piece, the home side won the scrums at vital moments. Their defence was also superb and the pressure they exerted led to the Lions simply making too many errors.
The Bulls backline, expertly marshalled by halfbacks Morne Steyn and Ivan van Zyl, also looked in prime attacking mood and their first try, in the 10th minute, featured some superb running rugby in the build-up before Steyn, who had earlier made the break into the 22 off a deft pass from Van Zyl, stuck through a diagonal grubber which wing Stravino Jacobs gathered beautifully considering the tricky bounce and crossed over the line.
Another penalty early in the second half, when the Lions were once again punished for trying to run out of their own 22, allowed the Bulls to extend their lead to 14-0. The Lions half was the location where most of the game was played, but when the visitors did manage to string some phases together inside the Bulls half they scored a fine try as Alberts thundered over.
But even their second try came from deep within their own territory as scrumhalf Andre Warner’s box-kick came down just outside his own 22. But Jacobs missed the catch, replacement Francke Horn gathered and sent Wandisile Simelane free on his outside. The exciting outside centre had already shown great feet and hands in the match, but now he showed tremendous pace as he raced away for the try that levelled the scores.
Still the Lions conceded penalties though and the Bulls were allowed to set a lineout maul from which replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar scored.
From the restart, Orie was then yellow-carded, perhaps a bit harshly, for a high tackle inside the Bulls’ 22. It put the home side hard on attack, Alberts was then yellow-carded after the Lions were guilty of continued offsides offences, and the Bulls predictably decided to scrum with both opposition locks off the field. A delicate crosskick from replacement flyhalf Chris Smith to Jacobs provided the match-winning try.
Location, location, location as they say in the real estate world and the Lions simply spent too much time trying to play in the wrong areas.
Bulls: Tries – Stravino Jacobs (2), Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion – Morne Steyn. Penalties – Steyn (3).
Lions: Tries – Willem Alberts, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal. Conversions – Elton Jantjies (3).