A remarkable defensive effort saw the Bulls withstand a WP forward barrage to win 30-22 on Saturday.
Province’s dominance at the set-pieces should have spelled trouble for the Bully Boys, but the visitors battled to translate much of this pressure into points. Dropped balls, forward passes and poor decision-making prevented WP from obtaining the necessary momentum and it was the Bulls who led 17-12 at the break.
WP loosehead Wicus Blaauw pulverised opposite number Werner Kruger at the scrum while Anton van Zyl and Chris Jack provided the visitors with another formidable platform at the lineout. Willem de Waal stuck to the game plan of kicking into opposition territory, but when the backline ran, they conceded possession in the most frustrating fashion.
A De Waal penalty opened the scoring, but it was the Bulls that made the bigger statement only moments later. Wynand Olivier exposed some weak midfield defence and spun one of those trademark long passes to the wing, and Gerhard van den Heever did the rest.
WP botched a number of attacking opportunities from promising positions. After laying another platform from the lineout, a shocking pass drifted in front of Frikkie Welsh and was hacked ahead by a Bulls player. Jaco Pretorius reacted quickest, scooping the rolling ball and racing down the tramline. The Bulls No 13 was chased down, but found Van den Heever in support once again.
De Waal kept the visitors in touch with some accurate goal-kicking, but an infringement in front of the WP posts allowed Francois Brummer to nail an important penalty before half-time.
Brummer booted a drop goal after the break to extend the lead before Gurthro Steenkamp crashed over following a patient forward build-up. After a shaky first 40, the Bulls had assumed control with a 27-12 lead.
Province continued to dominate the forward exchanges, and when they received a lineout deep in Bulls’ territory, the pack landed a big psychological blow. The lineout ball was taken and the maul set, before a massive collective shove allowed captain Luke Watson to flop over in the corner. De Waal kicked a vital conversion from the touchline to bring the visitors within eight.
The WP forwards continued to pressure the hosts, but some great work at the breakdown and brave Bulls defence served to feed their desperation. Another robust surge by Blaauw was held up as Van den Heever and Tiger Mangweni did amazingly well to get under the big prop.
WP eventually won a penalty out in front, but a quick tap robbed De Waal of an opportunity to reduce the deficit. Full time approached and that decision was confirmed as a cost.
The error count began escalate in accordance with WP’s desperation. De Waal eventually got the chance to narrow the gap in the 73rd minute, but WP were unable to cross the line in the dying minutes to secure the second last-minute win of the weekend.
Brummer put the result beyond doubt when he slotted another penalty in the 76th minute, a score that denied WP a losing bonus point.
By Jon Cardinelli