The Blue Bulls raced back to the top of the Absa Currie Cup standings with an emphatic 50-7 win over a game, but hopelessly outclassed, Falcons team in Brakpan on Friday.
It was the second successive week the Falcons conceded 50 points – rather disappointing after their fine win over Western Province last month – but they simply had no answer to the pace and power of the Bulls.
Rugby 365 reports that another striking sight at the Bosman Stadium on Friday was the large number of Bulls supporters, which seemed to outnumber the home fans.
“When we ran out, we said this was ‘little Loftus’,” Bulls captain Wikus van Heerden remarked in his post-match reaction.
But the Springbok flank, who scored three of his team’s six tries in a Man of the Match performance, was humble and gracious in victory – calling it a “fine team effort”.
He was also cautious not to build up expectations too much, despite his team’s lofty position on the standings.
“It is only halfway through the season, there is still a long way to go,” Van Heerden added.
However, on the day the Bulls were a class apart.
Their set pieces were much better than that of the Falcons. Making life difficult in the line-outs for the home team, the Bulls simply destroyed the Falcons scrum.
The Bulls opened the scoring, in the second minute, with a Morné Steyn penalty.
The Falcons tried to play their expansive game, but a handling error handed the ball back to the Bulls and within minutes Pedrie Wannenburg had worked his way over the tryline. Steyn’s conversion made it 10-0 in just six minutes.
The Falcons now tried underhanded tactics to upset the Bulls, resorting to niggling, but referee Jaco Peyper had a stern talk to the Falcons and told them in no uncertain terms that he will not tolerate their unruly conduct.
Peyper soon went upstairs, to the TMO, to see if he could spot further foul – as Bulls captain Wikus van Heerden pleaded with him to stop the off-the-ball stuff – but the report came back that it was nothing serious.
The Falcons were not going to let up and it appeared they had managed to distract the Bulls from their primary objective – to play constructive rugby.
In the 14th minute the Bulls had another shot at goal, as the Falcons were penalised for holding on in the tackle, but Steyn’s attempt was a shocker and well wide of the target.
The game now developed into an arm wrestle, which suited the Falcons more than the Bulls.
It took a while, but by the 23rd minute the Bulls had regained control and a penalty was turned into a five-metre line-out and from there captain Wikus van Heerden barged his way over for the team’s second try. Steyn was again not on target, but at 15-0 the Bulls started to open the kind of gap that would leave the Falcons disheartened.
And within minutes Van Heerden scored his second try of the night, coming after a short period of aerial ping-pong and a brilliant counter by Steyn, who also added the conversion to give his team a 22-0 lead.
The Falcons were still trying and they were soon rewarded when flyhalf Riaan Smit hacked through a loose ball – the result of a poor pass by Van Heerden – and pounced to score the Falcons’ first try. The flyhalf, Smit, also added the conversion to make it 22-7.
But a Steyn penalty in the 35th minute put the momentum back with the Bulls as they went further ahead – 25-7.
The referee felt the need for another chat with the Falcons captain and then proceeded to issue a general team warning against the Falcons for “negative play”.
Steyn stretched the Bulls’ lead to 21 points (28-7), with a penalty shot in the 39th minute – which came as a result of that chat by the match official.
That’s how it stayed till the half-time break.
The second half was only three minutes old when Steyn stretched his team’s lead to 24 points (31-7) with another penalty.
Penalties continued to flow and the referee, Peyper, mindful of his first-half warning, then issued Falcons flank Warren Perkins a yellow card (10 minutes in the sin bin) for repeated infringements – as the Falcons player went off his feet at a tackle and killed the ball.
This did not deter the Falcons and they continued with their negative tactics, prompting the referee to issue another general warning – begging the question: ‘Why not just follow through and issue another card?’
The bonus-point try was son in coming, with Van Heerden scoring his third of the night – from a line-out and maul. Steyn’s conversion made it 38-7.
But the Bulls were soon reduced to 14 men when the match officials felt that replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard was reckless with a tackle and he was yellow carded.
And one-time Springbok Chiliboy Ralepelle, a late replacement fro the injured Derick Küun, came on for his first Currie Cup game in more than two years – bringing to an end his lengthy injury-enforced lay-off.
It was his first first-class game since ye captain the Boks against a World XV in Leicester in December 2006.
The Falcons tried gamely to make their numerical advantage count, but their execution let them down time-and-again.
Once Hougaard was back on the field and the numbers restored, the Bulls quickly got back on the scoreboard – with prop Werner Kruger barging over after another close-in line-out. Burton Francis, on for Steyn, slotted the conversion for a 45-7 lead.
The Bulls put the half-century up in the 80th minute – with wing Rocco Jansen on the end of a sweeping move. Francis couldn’t add the conversion, but at 50-7 the margin was a comprehensive as the Bulls deserved.
For the Falcons:
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Wannenburg, Van Heerden 3, Kruger, Jansen
Cons: Steyn 3, Francis
Pens: Steyn 4
Yellow cards: Warren Perkins (Falcons, 49 – repeated infringements, off his feet at the tackle), Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls, 62 – foul play, spear tackle)
Falcons: 15 Len Olivier, 14 Johan Swartz, 13 Johan Jackson, 12 Dewald Pretorius, 11 Nicky Kritzinger, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Gerrie Odendaal, 8 Sean Plaatjies (captain), 7 Emile Verster, 6 Warren Perkins, 5 Ruhan van Jaarsveld, 4 Wouter Moore, 3 Nico Pretorius, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Gavin Whittingham.
Replacements: 16 Jody Jeneker, 17 Frik Venter, 18 Reg Perkins, 19 Reg Muller, 20 Fredie van Zyl, 21 Jeff Perkins, 22 Mpho Matsaung.
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Rocco Jansen, 13 Marius Delport, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 John Mametsa, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 JP Joubert, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden (captain), 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Francois van Schouwenburg, 19 Jacques Burger, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Tiger Mangweni.