The Bulls surged in the second half to secure what turned out to be comfortable†33-20 bonus point win against the Reds at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls led the Reds 10-6 at half time but the momentum was with the Reds.
There were undoubtedly many positives for Bulls coach Frans Ludeke to take home, but also a few worrying aspects - not the least of which was the easy penetration of the Bulls defence on a number of occasions.
Usually one of their strong points this lapse could be attributed to an early lethargy and later to the knowledge that they had won. Too many turnovers at ruck time, too many wrong options and poor handling marred the home side's first-half effort when they led 10-6 after a try in the last second before the break.
The Bulls had just about every crumb of possession in the first five minutes, but were not sharp enough in their handling to get on the board.
When the first points came it was through a Morne Steyn penalty. The Reds had their first real possession after 14 minutes but kicked directly into touch.
By then the Bulls had kicked nine times and the Reds on seven occasions. The Reds then ran from a scrum with Berrick Barnes beating Wynand Olivier on the inside and from the ensuing ruck Ben Lucas evened matters with a penalty.
The lacklustre Bulls allowed a Reds breakout from the kick-off , and more kicking followed before Steyn got a third penalty chance which hit the upright, having earlier struck the crossbar from 52 metres out.
The visitors took the lead after a sustained period of possession and inter-handling when captain Barnes opted for a drop to put his side 6-3 up after 21 minutes. The Reds now had the better of the possession and played the better rugby, taking the Bulls on around the rucks and gaining metres with drives.
Wrong options and ill-discipline at the rucks - often because the Bulls had lesser numbers at the breakdown - prevented any continuity. Somewhat against the run of play the Bulls regained the lead after 37 minutes when they put pressure on a Reds scrum five metres out.
Under pressure scrumhalf Lucas rolled the ball back over the tryline and Fourie du Preez scored the easiest of tries by simply diving on the ball for Steyn to convert (10-6).
Within the first 30 seconds of the second half Olivier, who had earlier made some errors on attack and defence scythed through (15-6).
Steyn increased the lead to 18-6 after a fortuitous penalty for a high tackle when the Bulls, with a little more urgency, had surged into the Reds 22. A flick-on to Digby Ioane from replacement scrumhalf Will Genia after a ruck saw the winger run 40 metres, beating Zane Kirchner on the inside and fighting off Ndungane's tackle.
Quade Cooper converted (18-13). The Reds were back in the game, running at every opportunity, but a moment of madness saw lock Adam Byrnes yellow-carded after 56 minutes for over-zealous cleaning out in a ruck. A Bull or two were lucky to escape the same sanction for retaliating.
Around the hour mark Bryan Habana twice kicked ahead and looked set to score, but was called back for a forward pass from Olivier in the first instance and then lost the ball as he was tackled the second time. Then after recycling from a ruck and with Habana initially making the play Burton Francis ran some 40 metres for his first Super 14 try and Steyn converted (25-13).
The Reds were out of it, albeit not on the scoreboard. Their forwards now lacked their earlier urgency and their breakaways were not well-constructed.
There was another Steyn penalty and the bonus point try came after 74 minutes when Man of the Match Pierre Spies picked up behind the scrum, handed off a defender to score (33-13). Steyn missed the conversion to make his success rate five from nine.
After the hooter Peter Hynes shrugged off a few poor tackles to score and the Reds came away with a somewhat flattering defeat.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke gave all seven of his replacements a run and there was some concern after the match with injuries to Akona Ndungane and Victor Matfield who were replaced because of injury.
Tries -Fourie Du Preez, Wynand Olivier, Burton Francis, Pierre Spies
Penalties - Morne Steyn 3
Conversions - Morne Steyn 2
Drop Goals -
Tries -Digby Ioane, Peter Hynes
Penalties -†Ben Lucas
Conversions -Quade Cooper, Berrick Barnes
Drop Goals -Barnes
Venue - Pretoria
Time pm - 19.10
Referee - M Jonker (SA)
Ass Ref. 1 - W Roos (SA)
Ass Ref. 2 - J Peyper (SA)
TMO - M Cupido(SA)
Performance Reviewer - A Schoonwinkel
Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Akona Ndungane, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick KuŁn, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Reps: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Frik Kirsten, Danie Rossouw, Pedrie Wannenburg, JP Nel, Burton Francis, Heini Adams.
Reds: Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Charlie Fetoai, Berrick Barnes (c), Brando Va'aulu, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas, Leroy Houston, Daniel Braid, Scott Higginbotham, Adam Byrnes, Van Humphries, Dayna Edwards, Sean Hardman, Greg Holmes.
Reps: Saia Faingaa, Laurie Weeks, Robert Simmons, Poutasi Luafutu, Will Genia, Anthony Faingaa, Mark McLinden.