The Bulls scored a last minute try to beat Griquas 25-24 in a tense encounter in Kimberley.
With Griquas reduced to 13 players, Pedrie Wannenberg scored a decisive try to snap their host’s five game unbeaten streak. The performance wasn’t polished, but given how difficult it has become to beat Griquas, particularly at home, the result, which included a four-try bonus point, is all that matters.
The yellow cards killed Griquas’ challenge. They had defended brilliantly prior to that, but against a side of the class and experience of the Bulls, a two-man disadvantage was always going to cost them.
The Bulls’ pattern was initially not dissimilar to that of the Springboks – they relied heavily on accurate tactical kicking from their halfback pair to pin Griquas in their territory, as well as on a committed chase, punishing defence and a strong contest at the breakdown.
The approach was an intelligent one, as the majority of the teams who have fallen to Griquas have attempted to run them off the track. That approach troubled their hosts, but their ill-discipline allowed Griquas to stay in touch. Then having having weathered an onslaught and maintained parity, Griquas took their opportunities and pulled ahead.
The Bulls dominated possession and territory in the first half, forcing Griquas into countless tackles. To their credit Griquas resisted manfully, but were helped by fundamental errors and poor decision making in good positions by the Bulls.
Griquas opened the scoring through the boot of Naas Olivier, but it would be the Bulls to cross the whitewash first. They systematically worked their way into Griquas’ 22, drove towards the tryline and scored when Derick Kuun sniped around the ruck fringe and powered over.
Francois Brummer missed the conversion but banked a penalty shortly thereafter. Griquas struggled to get out of their half, but when they did they profited from the Bulls’ ill-discipline, Olivier landing two penalties.
They then extended their lead against the run of play thanks in most part to the deft skills and vision of captain Jonathan Mokuena. The No 8 threaded through a perfectly weighted grubber which wing Egon Seconds chased down to score.
The Bulls rebounded immediately. A slick backline move broke down just inside the 22 and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard hit up around the side of the ruck and broke four tackles en route to the tryline. Brummer missed the conversion and Griquas led 14-13 at half-time.
Griquas stuck a decisive blow just after the restart when hooker Rayno Barnes scrambled to collect a charged down kick to score. Olivier pulled his conversion attempt wide, but the impetus was with his side.
Griquas have proved to be a very difficult team to beat when they have momentum and it was crucial that the Bulls denied them the opportunity to pull further ahead.
However, they were denied the opportunity to launch a counter offensive as Griquas became progressively better at retaining their possession, and extended their lead when former Bulls player Trompie Nontshinga scored to extend the lead to 11 points. Griquas built through the phases then sent the ball wide to Barnes who drew two defenders and offloaded inside to Nontshinga.
With just 17 minutes remaining the Bulls needed to respond speedily, and did so when wing Gerhard van den Heever scored from a flowing backline move. Burton Francis, on for Brummer, missed a crucial conversion but the Bulls seemed to have shaken themselves out of their lethargy.
They camped in Griquas’ 22 for the remaining minutes but blew a couple of good scoring opportunities before Griquas’ task became more arduous when loose forwards Rohan Kitshoff and Mokuena were sin binned for ruck infringements within 30 seconds of each other.
The Bulls cranked up the heat and a 13-man Griquas simply had no resistance. Wannenberg scored after seven phases, and importantly he touched down under the posts. Francis was left with a simple conversion which secured the victory.
By Ryan Vrede