Vodacom Western Province’s fairytale season came to a harsh end on Saturday, with the more clinical Vodacom Blue Bulls dealing them a 45-30 hiding.
The match played out according to the script, with the much fancied Bulls pack totally outplaying the men from Cape Town. Province were able to conjure three tries through some individual brilliance, but the cohesion and impetus that has characterised their game in 2006 was not apparent in this match at all.
The first half belonged solely to the home side, with two tries and 20 points being scored. The first of young Derick Kuun’s brace came as a result of the typically efficient Blue Bull maul off the line-out. The Province pack were powerless to halt the inevitable, and the former SA U21 captain burrowed over the line.
Kuun grabbed his second soon after when WP captain Luke Watson made a mistake off his own scrum in the Province 22. The WP No 6 broke off the side of the pack and was hit by Danie Rossouw, which jolted the ball loose from his grasp. JP Nel picked up the spoils and raced towards the line, where he was held up by Gio Aplon. However, Kuun was on hand to receive the final pass, and obtained his reward for good support play.
Province then redirected the pressure onto the Bulls, but the Pretoria men held firm on their own line. It has to be said that WP squandered four or five scoring opportunities in this period, the backline looking very indecisive. Three points were all they could take from the time spent here, and although they narrowed the gap to 20-9, the Bulls went to half-time with the psychological advantage.
The second half began with a missed opportunity by Olivier, whose penalty attempt drifted to the right of the uprights. The Bulls then retained possession well and advanced up the field, ultimately winning a penalty and another three points.
But the Province men were not done yet, and Luke Watson made up for his earlier mistake by throwing a beautiful pass out to Sireli Naqelevuki, who powered through Pierre Spies and flung it out to the wing. The ball bounced kindly for Gerrie Britz, who completed the try with a dive.
The Bulls responded in unexpected fashion. Winning a penalty in kickable range, captain Gary Botha opted for the kick in the corner. The ensuing lineout laid the platform for Marius Delport to power over, and a subsequent Morne Steyn drop goal seemed to place the hosts out of reach.
The see saw tipped in Province’s favour again, Bolla Conradie being the man to round off a beautiful display of skill by both forwards and backs. But poor concentration off the kickoffs, the Achilles heel of WP rugby, cost them in the next passage of play when Hilton Lobberts raced through to collect the dropped ball and score. Another try by replacement Hottie Louw put the issue to rest, establishing a healthy 45-23 lead.
The Springboks had a huge influence on the result of this game, and Spies was deservedly named the Man of the Match. Overall, the form exhibited by the Bulls indicates the Free State or the Sharks are in for huge challenge come the final next weekend.
Bulls: Tries: Derick Kuun (2), Marius Delport, Hilton Lobberts, Hottie Louw; Conversions: Derick Hougaard (4); Penalties: Hougaard (3)
WP: Tries: Gerrie Britz (2), Bolla Conradie; Conversions: Naas Olivier (3); Penalties:Olivier (3); Drop goal: Morne Steyn.
By Jon Cardinelli