RYAN VREDE reports on the match where Gareth Anscombe scored all the Blues’ points in a 29-23 victory over the Bulls at Loftus.
Where has this kid been? The Blues have kept faith with the mediocre Michael Hobbs (unavailable tonight) but the 20-year-old Anscombe has surely ousted him through this accomplished, all-round performance. His goalkicking was particularly impressive, outshining Morne Steyn, whose two from six return – the majority of those easy shots – was out of character.
The Bulls just never settled into a distinctive pattern despite bossing possession, territory and the set phases. Credit to the Blues, who, after building a 12-point lead at half-time, played intelligently and forced the Bulls into expansive attacks. The Blues held firm in defence, waiting for runners to isolate themselves then stifling the recycle or forcing infringements at the breakdown.
The Bulls started in the worst possible fashion, conceding a try three minutes into the contest when Anscombe snatched a loose ball and sprinted 50m to score and convert.
However, the Bulls rebounded well, profiting from a man advantage after Ali Williams had been binned with Pierre Spies rounding off a slick blindside move. The Bulls built immense pressure thereafter but butchered a number of scoring opportunities in the Blues’ red zone. They will lament this period when they review the match.
Steyn had missed the earlier conversion attempt then sent an easy shot wide to further compound the Bulls’ struggles. He traded penalties with Anscombe thereafter, but the latter was over the whitewash again just before the break, after a Bulls move broke down well upfield. Anscombe kicked the conversion to give the Blues a commanding 20-8 lead at the break.
Steyn banked three but Anscombe kicked a beauty from the touchline to keep the Blues’ tally ticking over. And the Blues got better as the match progressed, exhibiting none of the tactical naivety that had marked their previous defeats. They punched up through phases and Anscombe continued his kicking masterclass, adding his fourth penalty of the evening to take his side 15 points ahead.
With seven minutes to go the Bulls set up a tense finish, Bjorn Basson scoring. But Steyn pushed his effort wide and despite a late try from Basson the Bulls never threatened to steal the points.
Their limitations when asked to chase a game were brutally exposed tonight. Their impotence is concerning but there is time to remedy their shortcomings in this regard.