Bulls demolish Brumbies, keep playoff hopes alive


Sun, May 25, 2014 - Page 19

Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked 22 points as the Northern Bulls kept their hopes of reaching the Super 15 playoffs alive with a bonus-point 44-23 home triumph over the Brumbies on Friday.

Victory lifted the South Africans three places to sixth on the combined standings and avenged a semi-finals loss to the Australians last season.

However, the near-invincibility of the Pretoria franchise at Loftus Versfeld Stadium has not been matched on the road and six losses could yet deprive the Bulls of a knockout-stage slot.

The Bulls had the edge in the line-outs, scrums and at the breakdowns, and showed flair and strength on attack while defending superbly.

They established early momentum with a try on eight minutes and were 23-6 ahead by halftime on a cool, clear late-autumn evening.

A comprehensive defeat completed a miserable day for the Brumbies, who slipped from second to fourth and surrendered top place in the Australian conference to the Waratahs.

Yellow cards to flyhalf Matt Toomua and substitute hooker Josh Mann-Rea did not help the cause of last year’s Super 15 runners-up.

Renowned for a ball-in-hand approach, the Canberra outfit were nearly always on the back foot, with right-wing Henry Speight the lone back to impress.

The Brumbies took just one point from a two-match South African tour after losing 27-21 to the Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend.

Potgieter slotted six penalties and two conversions, and when substituted midway through the second half, replacement Handre Pollard kicked a conversion.

Flanker Jono Ross scored two tries, and center Jan Serfontein and left wing Bjorn Basson one each for the three-time southern hemisphere champions.

Right wing Henry Speight, No. 8 Ben Mowen and center Tevita Kuridrani crossed the tryline for the Brumbies.

Brumbies center Christian Lealiifano kicked a conversion and two penalties.

Veteran Bulls lock Victor Matfield created the first try by selling a dummy to fullback Jesse Mogg and Serfontein darted over.

Serfontein turned creator for the second try scored by Ross and with Potgieter missing only one of six kicks at goal, the first half belonged to the men in blue.

Toomua was sin-binned one minute into the second half for a high tackle on center J.J. Engelbrecht, and soon after Basson intercepted a Nic White pass and dotted down.

The Brumbies’ first try came while reduced to 14 men, as stand-in flyhalf Speight punished weak tackling to race over under the posts.

A couple of Potgieter penalties gave the Bulls a 37-13 advantage, then Mowen snatched an opportunist try after substitute wing Pat McCabe did well to keep the ball in play.

The bonus-point try by Ross five minutes from time came from a classic Bulls maneuver as they won a line-out and created an unstoppable driving maul.