The Vodacom Bulls turned up the heat in the second half to score a 43-9 Rainbow Cup SA victory over the Cell C Sharks after little separated the teams at half-time in Saturday’s clash at Loftus in Pretoria.
Perfect conditions greeted the two teams but exciting, running rugby was never going to be the winner in this match as the Bulls held out until half-time and then found the impetus to run away with the game in a second half where the Cell C Sharks saw precious little of the ball.
The Bulls were first on the board with a long range penalty in the opening five minutes after the teams , had been testing each other out early,but sustained pressure from the Cell C Sharks as they had the Bulls defending their line and eventually conceding the penalty that allowed Curwin Bosch to level matters 10 minutes later.
In the pressure cooker of a match, it was clear that any opportunities to put points on the board would be taken as the Bulls sent the next penalty through the posts to try build score-board pressure rather than kicking to the corner.
The Bulls conceded a number of penalties defending their line as the Cell C Sharks put pressure on them, before Bosch levelled matters with a second penalty as the game hit the 25 minute mark.
Steyn added the third with nearly half an hour’s play behind them as the teams looked for points in a game that was always going to be tight and keenly-contested, as this was.
A fourth Steyn penalty with just over five minutes of the half remaining took the home side to a 12-6 lead, but Bosch reduced it back to three with his third successful penalty.
This top of the table clash was always going to be about exerting and absorbing pressure and there was very little between the two sides by the time the half-time whistle went with the home side marginally in front, enjoying a 12-9 lead.
When the half-time hooter rang out, it was the Cell C Sharks on attack with the touchline winning the battle but a show of intent for the visiting Durban side looking to inject some excitement into the game.
Defence had played a big role in the game and the two teams had adopted strategy over x-factor, although the Cell C Sharks had won set-piece battle with a lineout steal, a scrum free-kick and penalty.
The Bulls enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory in the early stages of the second half and despite being repelled time and again, finally made the advantage count, scoring the first try of the game with a succession of pick and drives, with Steyn putting them 19-9 ahead with 25 minutes remaining.
Going into the final quarter, the home side were enjoying a measure of dominance and added a fifth penalty to take their lead to 22-9 and the game slipping away. Things looked worse when the Bulls scored their second try with a good effort on attack as the ball was recycled and then sent out wide. The touchline conversion took the home side into a 20 point lead and with it, the result.
Things went from bad to worse as the Bulls scored a driving maul try to score their third try with three minutes left on the clock, the conversion taking the score to 36-9.
Chasing the bonus point, they did everything necessary to score the fourth try in the dying moments of the game to retain their 100% success record in the competition and send the Cell C Sharks into second position on the log for the first time in the tournament.