GARETH DUNCAN watched the Bulls score seven tries in the second half for a 61-8 victory over the Reds in Pretoria.
It was a convincing performance from the Bulls as they dominated the defending champions, who would’ve relived memories of their 92-3 drubbing in 2007. While they will lament missed try-scoring opportunities in the opening 40, the hosts went on to convert their 16-3 half-time lead into a 53-point thrashing with a burly attacking showing. Most of the tries came from patient and well-worked build-up play, while they also showed an expansive side to their game when the match loosened up. Morne Steyn played his part with the boot, slotting all of his eight attempts at goal – a much needed confidence booster for the Springbok following a poor kicking display in the 29-23 Blues defeat a fortnight ago.
The Reds were always going to be underdogs as they arrived to Loftus with an injury-ravaged backline. They had to start the match with their fourth-choice flyhalf Dallan Murphy as the likes of Mike Harris and Ben Lucas were sidelined. Powerful winger Digby Ioane was also missing because of his five-week suspension.
They were clearly an unsettled side as the Bulls’ dangerous backs exposed the former’s defensive frailties after some early momentum. However, poor handling and finishing in the visitors’ red zone saw the home side fall short on several occasions. They still scored with their early ascendancy as the Reds’ ill-discipline was punished by Steyn, who converted three penalties. Jono Lance kicked the Reds’ only points of the half when he found the target once from the kicking tee.
The Bulls managed to cross the chalk once before the break when Zane Kirchner powered through from close range.
The Pretoria franchise returned a more clinical team after half-time as they ran rampant. The Reds, who suffered more injuries and looked a fatigued outfit, struggled to restrict the Bulls, who achieved their four-try bonus-point shortly before the final quarter as Wynand Olivier, Flip van der Merwe and Jacques Potgieter dotted down. The Reds claimed a consolation five-pointer via Dom Shipperley, but Jano Vermaak, CJ Stander, JJ Engelbrecht and Bjorn Basson all scored tries to seal the compelling win.
This is a great result for Frans Ludeke’s charges, who face a tough fortnight ahead as they tackle the Stormers in Cape Town and the Crusaders at home. They’ll need to build on to this victory in their following fixtures if they want a good chance of securing a play-off place.