Blue Bulls battle back to clinch win
The Vodacom Blue Bulls turned in a superb second-half performance to overturn an 11-point deficit to record a 40-34 win (half-time 13-24) over the Sharks in their Absa Currie Cup match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
In the first half the home side had struggled in the scrums and battled to secure much possession but matters changed in the second half.
Coach Frans Ludeke made liberal use of his substitutes at the start of the half in an attempt to shore up the Bulls’ faltering scrum.
The changes made a telling impact as the Bulls scored 20 unanswered points in 11 minutes in the second stanza before Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie succeeded with a penalty in the 64th minute to stop the bleeding.
As the Bulls managed to gain a degree of possession parity they began to eat away at the Sharks’ lead thanks to a
long-range penalty from Jacques-Louis Potgieter in the 50th minute.
Six minutes later Bulls scrumhalf Ruan Snyman broke clear from a ruck to score from five metres out with Potgeiter’s conversion drawing the Bulls to within one point.
Replacement prop Jaco Engels, who had helped to solidify his team’s scrum, then scored a wonderful solo try after the burly front-ranker took a pass just outside the Sharks’ 22.
Engels burst through the defence before swerving past the last defender to score. So impressive was Engels’s contribution that he was named man of the match despite playing just 40 minutes.
Potgieter added the conversion and a further penalty as the Bulls stretched their lead to 33-24 before Lambie’s penalty.
The home side wrapped up the match with just over 10 minutes to play when inside centre Wynand Olivier intercepted a loose pass from replacement scrumhalf Rory Kockott to go over for a converted try.
With eight minutes to play the Sharks grabbed themselves a bonus point for losing by less than seven points when lock Alistair Hargreaves stretched over to score.
The loss was just the second suffered by the Sharks this season and they remain atop the Currie Cup standings on 36 points while the Bulls moved to fourth with 28 points.
In the first half the Sharks had the lion’s share of possession and they adopted a high-tempo game as they launched wave upon wave of attacks against their opponents.
It was thus not surprising that the visitors opened the scoring in the seventh minute thanks to a superb finish from left wing Lwazi Mvovo.
Mvovo took an inside ball from fullback Monty Dumond and showed his strength to burst through two attempted tackles before going over in the right-hand corner for his eighth try of the season.
Lambie added the conversion before slotting a penalty as the Sharks eased into an 8-0 lead after 10 minutes.
Two minutes later the Bulls opened their account as lock Jandre Kruger collected a scoring pass from outside centre Jaco Pretorius to rumble over for a converted try.
Lambie and his opposite number Potgieter then traded penalties but the Sharks were playing some scintillating rugby and as the first quarter came to an end the visitors took the ball through 10 phases with some impressive interplay between their backs and forwards which resulted in outside centre Stefan Terblanche sniping over from close range.
Lambie then kicked his third penalty as the Sharks extended their lead to 21-10.
The Bulls had kept themselves in the match thanks to some superb scrambling defence and Potgieter narrowed the gap to just eight points with a penalty with seven minutes left in the half.
The home side made 51 tackles in the first half to just 18 from the Sharks and the pressure continued to build as the visitors extended their lead with a Lambie penalty after the half-time hooter had sounded.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Juandre Kruger, Ruan Snyman, Jaco Engels, Wynand Olivier; Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3), Zane Kirchner; Penalties: Potgieter (4).
– Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Stefan Terblanche, Alistair Hargreaves; Conversions: Patrick Lambie (2); Penalties: Lambie (5).