The Bulls were rescued by a 78th-minute Morne Steyn penalty, and the fact that Henry Immelman missed one after the final hooter, as they scraped to a 33-31 win over Edinburgh in a dingdong United Rugby Championship thriller at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Bulls made the early running and were dominant and clinical in sailing into a 15-0 lead in 22 minutes. But they were then stunned by the quality and slickness of Edinburgh’s attacking play, and ripped apart by right wing Darcy Graham’s hat-trick of tries.
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The Bulls were great going forward, but once Edinburgh recovered from an error-strewn start, including a yellow card to captain Grant Gilchrist, the visitors really tested their defence, which was caught being too narrow at times and also missed one-on-one tackles.
Graham rounded the defence for his opening try in the 32nd minute, Edinburgh cutting the deficit to 14-15 at half time.
The Bulls started the second half superbly with Cornal Hendricks scoring after being set up by the forwards – Elrigh Louw made yards over the gainline after the home side won back the kickoff, Marcell Coetzee broke through on a great inside line, and there was slick interplay between locks Walt Steenkamp and Ruan Nortje.
Also read: Louw like a kid on his birthday, Goosen returns at fullback for Bulls
But Edinburgh immediately struck back as Graham followed up a long-range Mark Bennett penalty that struck the poles and bounced into unguarded territory.
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A Chris Smith penalty stretched the Bulls’ lead back to 25-19, but they lost the restart and Graham rounded off a superb try that featured brilliant handling by eighthman Viliame Mata and fullback Immelman.
Spluttering like an old car
The Bulls, spluttering like an old car between excellence and mediocrity, scored another fine try featuring some good hands in a prolonged build-up, replacement prop Simphiwe Matanzima providing some key energy with a strong carry, before wing Stravino Jacobs ran on to a well-aimed pass from Embrose Papier and stretched over to score.
But Edinburgh just kept on coming and they finally overtook the Bulls with 11 minutes remaining. Playing off a lineout, they showed wonderful attacking skills, the slick hands of their backs working left wing Damien Hoyland over for the try, converted by outside centre Mark Bennett for a 31-30 lead.
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The Bulls then conceded a scrum penalty, but Immelman missed from 54 metres out, before the home side then won a penalty at the set-piece. Their lineout was especially dominant on Saturday and they earned another penalty from a driving maul, allowing Steyn to shoot at goal. He was on the 10m line, six metres in from touch, and there was seldom any doubt he would nail the tricky kick.
But then Jacobs went in high on Bennett in a thunderous tackle, and was rightly penalised after extensive consultations between the officials.
Immelman from 46 metres out and 12 metres in from touch, was wide, the Bulls escaping a painful loss.
But Edinburgh have certainly left Loftus Versfeld with immense credit, while the Bulls will need to work on getting more defensive steel.
Bulls – Tries: Johan Grobbelaar, Elrigh Louw, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalties: Smith (2), Steyn.
Edinburgh – Tries: Charlie Savala, Darcy Graham (3), Damien Hoyland. Conversions: Mark Bennett (3).
Also read: Bulls in opening win over Lions at Ellis Park