The Blue Bulls, pipped at the death last year, came back to take the winners medals this year by beating the Free State Cheetahs 25-21 in a dramatic Vodacom Cup Final in Pretoria on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that Bulls flyhalf Burton Francis put on a match winning kicking display as the home team edged the visitors by holding on in the face of a fierce late onslaught – with the Free State side being denied victory by a TMO call four minutes into injury time.
Francis kicked six penalties, a conversion and was responsible for the cross field kick which fell into the hands of Blue Bulls wing Rocco Jansen – who scored the hosts only try in the 48th minute.
The Cheetahs led proceedings 10-6 at the half-time interval – courtesy of a Wilton Pietersen try in the 31st minute and a penalty by scrumhalf Jandre Blom.
It was the Bulls who got out the blocks first with two penalties from Francis in the sixth and 12th minutes, respectively.
The Cheetahs came close to scoring a try in the 21st minute, but lock Izak van der Westhuizen knocked on in the goal area.
Ten minutes later, the Cheetahs did take the lead through Pietersen’s try which was followed by Blom’s penalty.
In the second half, the Bulls were also first off the mark, from another Francis penalty before Jansen crossed over to retain the lead for the Bulls.
Blom struck a penalty in the 52nd minute, but Francis edged his team ahead by nine points when he slotted over another two penalties.
It was Blom again in the 68th minute with a penalty before Cheetahs centre Phillip Snyman carved up the Bulls defence at close range to canter over the line and haul the Cheetahs to within a point of their hosts.
Francis, though, would have the final say and his 77th minute, long range penalty ensured victory for the Blue Bulls and a first in domestic rugby with the ZAR1 million winners’ cheque.
Pens: Francis 6
Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Pietersen, Snyman
Pens: Blom 3
Phillip Lemmer (Cheetahs, 60 – repeated infringements),
Frik Kirsten (Blue Bulls, 68 – repeated infringements)