Bulls down Brumbies in points-fest
February 20, 2010
The Bulls' Francois Hougaard is tackled by the Brumbies' Stirling Mortlock and Matt Giteau
© Getty Images
The Bulls moved to the top of the Super 14 table with a 50-32 victory over the Brumbies at Loftus Versfeld.
Fly-half Morne Steyn was the star of the show for the defending champions with the Springboks No.10 weighing in with 35 points courtesy of two tries, five penalties and five conversions as the hosts recorded their 12th successive victory at their Pretoria home. Scrum-half Fourie du Preez, winger Gerhard van den Heever and centre Wynand Olivier also crossed for tries to ensured Frans Ludeke's side began this season's competition with back-to-back bonus point wins.
First-half tries from Rocky Elsom and George Smith gave the Brumbies and early lead which they held at the break but they were unable to withstand the second half onslaught from the Bulls with winger Pat McCabe's last minute score nothing more than consolation. Veteran centre Stirling Mortlock slotted four penalties and a conversion for the Australian side with fly-half Matt Giteau adding a drop goal.
The Bulls welcomed back the versatile Francois Hougaard on the wing in place of John Mametsa while youngster Stephan Dippenaar was drafted into midfield as a replacement for the injured Jaco Pretorius. Danie Rossouw was earmarked to continue in the second-row during the injury absence of Bakkies Botha but picked up a neck injury in training, his place going to Flip van der Merwe.
The Brumbies dominated the post-season transfer with the acquisition of Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom and fly-half Matt Giteau and both players made their season bow with Elsom slotting into a formidable back-row alongside George Smith and Stephen Hoiles and Giteau replacing Matt Toomua at fly-half.
The home side conceded an early penalty for obstruction and were punished by Mortlock but Steyn levelled things up having missed an earlier long-range effort. But the Brumbies struck back with the opening try of the game courtesy of a powerful drive from Elsom - the flanker collecting the ball wide on the left from Ben Alexander and charging his way over to score in the corner. Mortlock missed the conversion and another Steyn penalty slashed the visitors' lead to just two points midway through the half.
The Australians, though, refused to lie down and claimed their second try when Elsom intercepted a pass and offloaded to Stephen Hoiles, who then sent Smith away to score under the post, with Mortlock finding his range this time to add the extras. The Bulls then benfited from some good fortune - Du Preez picking up the ball and running in at the line, with referee Mark Lawrence helping him out as he obstructed Alexander's attempted tackle. Steyn converted, but again the visitors came back strongly with Mortlock putting the ball over easily after the hosts conceded a penalty.
There was no luck needed for the Bulls' second score which came after some patient build-up play with Du Preez picking out Steyn who cut through close to the post. The conversion was added and, just as the Bulls looked liked they were going to head into the break in the lead, Mortlock sent over another three-pointer to hand his side a 21-20 lead.
Straight from the restart, a moment of brilliance from Matt Giteau extended the lead further - the Brumbies' No.10 sending over a drop goal from more than 40 metres out. Another penalty from Mortlock followed making it a seven-point game, but the Bulls then began their fightback.
First Steyn continued to show his accuracy with another penalty, followed by two tries - the first saw Van den Heever make the most of a loose ball at the back of the line-out. He controlled well and then eased his way over the line, followed by a bonus-point touchdown seconds later when Olivier found a gap in the Brumbies defence and charged through to score in the left corner. Steyn converted on both occasions as the gap was suddenly 10 in the Bulls' favour, before adding another 13 points to cap another vintage performance and seal the win.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland