SIMON BORCHARDT saw Morne Steyn rediscover his goal-kicking form as the Bulls beat a brave Brumbies side 36-34 at Loftus.
Steyn missed five out of eight kicks at Ellis Park last week, but was back on target at his home ground, succeeding with eight out of 10 shots at goal and slotting a drop kick. It was a match-winning performance from the Bok flyhalf considering his side was outscored by five tries to two.
Three of the Brumbies’ tries came in the final 10 minutes as they fought back to claim two deserved bonus points that take them back to the top of the Australian conference (which is why they are third on the combined log despite having seven fewer points than the fourth-placed Bulls).
The Brumbies troubled their more fancied opponents by matching them physically at the collisions and at scrum time, counter-rucking effectively, and keeping the ball away from the Bulls’ forwards by using the width of the field on attack. If they’d spread the ball wide more often, they may well have won.
The Bulls dominated possession early on and led 6-0, but the Brumbies hit back with two outstanding backline tries. First, they created space out wide for winger Henry Speight who dived over in the right-hand corner. A few minutes later, they were awarded a scrum and a runaround from flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, combined with some poor defensive work from Bulls outside centre JJ Engelbrecht, resulted in a try for fullback Jesse Mogg.
While Lealiifano missed both touchline conversions, his opposite number was spot on with his third penalty attempt to reduce the deficit to one. Second rower Wilhelm Steenkamp had been held up over the tryline moments earlier, but that missed opportunity was quickly forgotten when quick hands by the backs put winger Bjorn Basson over for his sixth try of the season. Lealiifano and Steyn then exchanged penalties that saw the Bulls go into the break 19-13 ahead.
Steyn slotted a drop goal early in the second half to extend the hosts’ lead, and the visitors lost their captain, Ben Mowen, to injury in the same passage of play.
Steyn’s fifth penalty made it 25-13 before the Bulls scored a bizarre try that seemed to have sealed a comfortable win. Steyn appeared to have knocked on just inside his half and everyone stood still. However, referee Marius Jonker waved played on, Akona Ndungane passed to CJ Stander and the flanker ran 50m to score. Steyn missed the conversion but nailed a long-range penalty to put his side 20 points up.
Then came the Brumbies’ brilliant fightback.
Outside centre Andrew Smith crossed the line to make it 33-20 and the visitors almost scored again when Speight lost the ball in the tackle over the line.
With three minutes to go, replacement scrumhalf Ian Prior dived over for the bonus-point try, and substitute hooker Anthony Hegarty scored after the hooter to get another bonus point for finishing within seven.