Vodacom Western Province beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls 23-12 at Newlands on Friday night to go top of the Absa Currie Cup log.
The superior structure in the Western Province defensive game outplayed the Blue Bulls battering ram, and the visitors may leave Newlands wondering what more they could have done to win this encounter.
The first half saw a mere six points, all scored by the home side through flyhalf Naas Olivier. The Bulls were penalised heavily for slowing the ball down and it cost them in territory as well as on the scoreboard. De Wet Barry and Francois van Schouwenburg were both sent to the sin bin for separate infringements, but neither side made much of the extra space, WP scoring only three points.
When the Bulls eventually got possession they looked dangerous, but failed to take the right options in the midfield and let Province off on a number of occasions. Having said that, credit must definitely go to the WP defence. The Bulls tried everything from bashing it up through the forwards to throwing it wide to the wings, and still they could find no way through the impregnable blue and white in the first 40.
The second half started in stark contrast to the first, with Luke Watson stepping brilliantly in his own 22, passing to De Wet Barry who found a flying Gio Aplon on the outside. Aplon, who was named Man of the Match, chipped, regathered and scored to give the home side a 13-0 lead.
The Bulls made a tactical change bringing Neil Powell on at scrumhalf, and the switch paid dividends almost immediately. The Bulls pack hammered the line repeatedly, eventually sucking in enough defenders to allow Powell to pop over in the corner.
WP’s second try was created through Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki, who beat one man, powered through another and then offloaded to Aplon to give him his second try of the game.
The Bulls failed to capitalise on WP errors in the first half, with flyhalf Derick Hougaard missing three penalty attempts in a row. Not surprisingly, Morne Steyn was brought on at fullback to replace an injured Johan Roets, and was a little more successful with his kicks. Conversely, Olivier had a magical evening nailing all of his attempts and excelling on defence and attack.
Hanyani Shimange had a fantastic game, working well with the ever-improving Francois van der Merwe in the line-outs and excelling in his ball carrying and defence. The entire Province pack did exceedingly well to stop the big blue mauling machine from gaining any significant momentum. The Bulls dominated the scrums, but this had little effect on the outcome of the game.
The Cape side go back to the top of the log after the Vodacom Cheetahs went down to the Lions at Ellis Park.
Vodacom WP: Try: Gio Aplon(2); Conversions: Naas Olivier(2); Penalties: Olivier(3); Yellow cards: De Wet Barry (6th min).
Vodacom Bulls: Tries: Neil Powell, Morne Steyn; Conversion: Steyn; Yellow cards: Francois van Schowenburg (11th min).
By Jon Cardinelli, at Newlands