The Blue Bulls put their Currie Cup campaign firmly back on track, scoring a comprehensive 72-16 win over a hopelessly outclassed Boland Cavaliers in Wellington on Saturday.
The win ended a three-match losing streak by the Bulls, but more importantly it kept them in touch with the leaders in the play-off race.
While the Bulls were not as clinical as they should have been against very mediocre opposition, they still dominated the set pieces and stole several line-outs from the home team.
With a surfeit of possession it was to be expected that the Bulls would dominate on the scoreboard, but they were never even required moved out of second gear in a game in which the chasm between the two teams was every bit as big as the scoreline suggested.
What is concerning, especially for the Cavaliers, is that if the Bulls had played to their full potential the scoreline may well have approached the 100-point mark.
There was some good early endeavour from the Cavaliers, but that early Boland possession came to nothing, as obstructive running ended a move that had some promise, and an early Bulls foray into Boland territory also resulted in a turnover.
However, it did not take the Bulls long to get any momentum, as they rumbled over the line from two successive penalties. The TMO ruled that the ball was held up and awarded a scrum to the Bulls – which turned into a penalty.
Heini Adams, with a quick tap, sent the ball out wide to John Mametsa, who went over in the corner for the first try. Burton Francis missed the conversion, but Bulls were up 5-0.
From the restart the Bulls conceded a penalty and Danré Gerber was on target to narrow the gap to 3-5 – after 10 minutes.
But the Bulls continued their stampede and Gerhard van den Heever, on the right wing, stepped inside a defender to score the second try – a chance set up by strong running from captain Dewald Potgieter. This time Francis added the conversion and after 15 minutes the Bulls had a healthy 12-3 lead.
Boland managed to reduce that to six points, with a second Gerber penalty – 6-12 as the first quarter came to an end.
Right on the half-hour mark Francois Hougaard scored the Bulls’ third try – set up by a brilliant break from Springbok centre Wynand Olivier and strong running by wing Gerhard van den Heever – which took the ball to within meters of the line, before Hougaard picked up and dove over. Francis’ conversion made it 19-6 and the Bulls appeared in total control of the game.
Gerber kicked his third penalty in the 34th minute and then lock Nico Esterhuyse flopped over as the home team attacked from deep inside their own territory. It was a sweeping move that caught the Bulls defence flat-footed. With Gerber adding the conversion, the Cavaliers were suddenly back in the game at 16-19 and with half-time approaching.
This appeared to wake the Bulls out of their slumber and they launched wave after wave of attack, winning a penalty – with Francis slotted to make it 22-16 at the break.
It was the Cavaliers who had the first scoring opportunity after the break, but Gerber’s shot at goal was short and wide.
However, the Bulls opened the second-half scoring, a Francis penalty in the 46th minute – coming after the Bulls rumbled up strongly with their forwards and catching the Boland players offsides.
And another penalty to the Bulls soon afterwards saw the men from Pretoria opt for a line-out – from which they rumbled over the line. The call went to the TMO and he ruled that Derick Kuün, on as a flank replacement, had score the bonus-point try. Francis’ conversion made it 32-16 on the 50-minute mark.
Kuün scored his second try and the Bulls’ fifth within minutes – a score set up by a brilliant break from Francois Hougaard – a scrumhalf, who played at outside centre in this game – around a ruck near the Boland line. Francis hit the upright with his conversion attempt, but at 37-16 the Bulls were now in total control.
And Kuün got his hat-trick as the game entered the final quarter – coming from another strong Bulls maul, after a line-out. Replacement Francois Brummer made it 44-16 with the conversion.
Less than five minutes later the Bulls were over the line again, with returning Springbok Gurthrö Steenkamp barging his way over after a series of forward raids. The call went to the TMO, who ruled that the burly prop had indeed scored. Brummer added the conversion as the Bulls went past the 50-point mark – 51-16 with just under 15 minutes to go on the clock.
The rout continued when Hougaard scored his second try of the match, a great outside break in the 72nd minute, and Brummer added the conversion to take it to 58-16.
Next to score was replacement Fudge Mabeta, who also rumbled over from close range as the Bulls forwards took complete control in the closing stages. Another replacement, Stefan Watermeyer, joined in the rout as he scored the ninth try to finish off the match. Brummer converted both tries to make the final score 72-16.
Man of the match: In the early stages Danré Gerber and Elgar Watts showed good touches for Boland. But the real stars were in the Bulls team. REeturning Springbok Wynand Olivier showed his class – some good breaks, solid defence and an allround solid game. Other to stand out included Zane Kirchner, returning Bok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp and Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter. However, our award goes to Bulls utility back Francois Hougaard - a scrumhalf who has already played on the wing this season and now at outside centre. He showed his full array of skills – great breaks and delightful stepping, solid defence and two great tries.
For the Boland Cavaliers:
Pens: Gerber 3
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Mametsa, Van den Heever, Hougaard 2, Kuün 3, Steenkamp, Mabeta, Watermeyer
Cons: Francis 3 Brummer 5
Pens: Francis 2