The Vodacom Blue Bulls tasted a rare defeat at Loftus Versfeld as Vodacom Western Province beat them 15-10 in a hard-fought Absa Currie Cup match on Saturday.
Province led 15-3 at half-time and only a Stefan Basson try two minutes from time gave the visitors cause for concern and they weathered the last two minutes rather easily. In the end Luke Watson led his team to a thoroughly deserved win that should have been more comfortable on the scoreboard.
Watson was outstanding throughout and secured plenty of ball at the breakdown, beating Warren Brosnihan virtually every single time.
The Bulls, coached officially for the first time by Pote Human, never really got out of second gear as they were harassed into far too many errors to compete properly.
The Bulls had the better of the tight phases in the first 40 minutes, but struggled to convert that advantage into something tangible. Province on the other hand looked dangerous with ball in hand, with Joe Pietersen and Gio Aplon particularly impressive.
The Bulls had Basson who was outstanding, but was unable to lift his team-mates who were flat for much of the first half. Flank Tim Dlulane was also superb and earned many hard yards carrying the ball, but lacked the necessary support from a lethargic and uninspired home team.
Wessel Roux playing in his 100th match for Blue Bulls was giving Province tighthead Brock Harris a torrid time in the scrums. Bolla Conradie though found some zip and despite playing behind a beaten pack was able to release his exciting backs more often than not.
The visitors were first on the board after 13 minutes when a well-worked move saw left wing Egon Seconds cut in when it seemed better to look wide, but he broke several tackles to score.
Province was barely under pressure in their own half and after conceding a 16th minute Morne Steyn three-pointer, they deservedly went 10-3 up thanks to an Olivier penalty.
A controversial TMO try to Joe Pietersen in the dying minutes of the first half took the visitors to a 12-point cushion at the break. And they maintained that for a further 38 minutes.
Despite the Bulls having both captain Frikkie Welsh (playing his 50th match) and scrumhalf Heini Adams sin-binned within a minute of each other about six minutes into the half, the Bulls held on to trail by the same score.
Those dismissals however sapped an already shaky resolve and although they returned to 15 men without any impact on the scoreboard the extra effort require ensured that Province were always on top.
The late try by the impressive Basson though does earn the Bulls a bonus point, while WP go home with four valuable log points.
Bulls - Tries: Stefan Basson. Conversions: Morne Steyn 1. Penalties: Steyn 1.
WP - Tries: Egon Seconds, Joe Pietersen. Conversions: Naas Olivier 1. Penalties: Olivier 1.
By Andrew Hollely, at Loftus Versfeld
78 mins: Bulls throw everything into attack, and are rewarded when Basson caps a superb individual performance with a try in the corner. Steyn converts quickly. (2/2) WP 15-10
75 mins: A massive tackle by replacement forward Hilton Lobberts on Conradie stops an almost certain WP try that would have sealed the result.
73 mins: A great break by Basson from inside his 22 is smothered by determined Province defence. It is ultimately what seems to have won the game for the visitors.
67 mins: Steyn puts a penalty kick out 7m from the Province line. Bulls attack. Another penalty and again Steyn goes for touch, this time 5m out. Province’s defence is just too good and they earn a scrum.
65 mins: Bulls are making most of the play, but mistakes are costing them dearly. Province are doing enough to keep the Bulls at bay and it looks like there is no way through.
61 mins: Olivier lines up a a kick from on halfway, but it slides to the left and the score remains at the half-time score of 15-3 to WP. (2/5)
57 mins: Adams returns to take the Bulls back to a full compliment of 15, with the Bulls on attack.
55 mins: Welsh is back. Bulls up to 14 men.
53 mins: Luke Watson continues to lead from the front. Apart from his scavenging at the breakdown, he sets Conradie up to put Seconds away. The TMO rules he hits the corner flag before dotting down.
49 mins: Bulls attack through Tim Dlulane and Gary Botha, but kick the ball away when they should be protecting it with all they are worth. WP lineout on halfway.
47 mins: A minute later scrumhalf Heini Adams is given his marching orders for hands in the ruck and the Bulls are down to 13 against 15.
46 mins: The Bulls problems are compounded as captain Frikkie Welsh is sin-binned for over-zealous rucking.
43 mins: Roux off for blood. Kaco Engels on. Penalty Bulls. Steyn kicks to touch just inside WP 22.
41 mins: Province immediately on the attack from the restart. Scrum Bulls on their 22 and they clear.
HALF-TIME: BULLS 3 WP 15
37 mins: WP string a few good passes together and eventually Joe Pietersen goes over in the corner for what looks like a good try. The TMO is called and after much deliberation he awards the try. Expect controversy after this decision by Jaco Peyper from Free State. Olivier misses the conversion. (2/4) WP 15-3
34 mins: Olivier kicks an easy penalty to stretch the lead. (2/3) WP 10-3
31 mins: More good play by Basson as his kick takes the Bulls deep into WP territory. Moments later he attempts an outrageous drop-goal and WP nearly come away for a try, but knock.
28 mins: Wessel Roux, playing his 100th game for the Blue Bulls is giving Brock Harris a lesson in the front row. The game has become subdued as the forward battle dominates. Too many errors from both teams to gain enough momentum.
25 mins: Excellent take from a kick by Basson, diving in his 22. His clearance kick takes play onto halfway.
23 mins: WP lineout on Bulls 22. They attack close in, but lose the ball and Basson flies up field. His pass to Mametsa is dropped and a gilt-edged chance to score a try is lost.
20 mins: Bulls starting to control the territory and possession and putting Wp under pressure. WP lineout on 22. Free kick to the visitors. Grant clears up towards halfway.
16 mins: Bulls on the board via a Steyn penalty for a punch from a WP player. (1/1) WP 7-3
12 mins: Good clearance by Steyn relieves pressure on Bulls. Province lineout just inside their half. They attack downfield and after several phases, left wing Egon Seconds cuts in to score. Olivier converts. (1/2) WP 7-0
10 mins: Bulls penalised again at the ruck and Peter Grant kicks for touch. WP lineout on Bulls 22. But they are penalised at the maul.
8 mins: WP flyhalf Naas Olivier misses a long-range penalty to the left. (0/1)
6 mins: Bulls scrum on halfway line. Conradie steals and bursts away. He is beaten to his chip by Stefan Basson for a 22 drop out.
3 mins: WP penalised for offside inside Bulls half and Steyn kicks out on the 22. Bulls secure lineout ball, but it’s terribly slow and they lose it. Province attack through Gio Aplon, but are pushed out just outside the Bulls 22.
1 min: Blue Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn kicks off.
Blue Bulls: 15. Stefan Basson, 14. John Mametsa, 13. JP Nel, 12. Frikkie Welsh (captain), 11. Marius Delport, 10. Morne Steyn, 9. Heini Adams; 8. Pedrie Wannenburg, 7. Tim Dlulane, 6. Warren Brosnihan, 5. Francois van Schouwenburg, 4. Adriaan Fondse, 3. Rayno Gerber, 2. Gary Botha, 1. Wessel Roux.
Replacements: 16. Kobus van der Walt, 17. Jaco Engels, 18. Hottie Louw, 19. Hilton Lobberts, 20. Neil Powell, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Riaan van der Bergh.
Western Province: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Johan Pietersen, 13. Corne Uys, 12. Peter Grant, 11. Egon Seconds, 10. Naas Olivier, 9. Bolla Conradie; 8. Robbie Diack, 7. Justin Melck, 6. Luke Watson (captain), 5. Gerrie Britz, 4. Francois van der Merwe, 3. Brock Harris, 2. Schalk Brits, 1. JD Moller.
Replacements: 16. Huia Edmonds, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Rob Linde, 19. Pieter Louw, 20. Paul Delport, 21. Sarel Potgieter, 22. Chumani Booi.