Currie Cup

Bulls sneak past Lions in Currie Cup



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The Blue Bulls beat the Lions 19-13 (half-time 0-13) in their Absa Currie Cup rugby match at Loftis Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Blue Bulls were full value for their victory, and but for some poor goal kicking when it mattered probably would have taken a grip on the game earlier than they did.
The Bulls struggled to get going in the first half. Their rhythm after the break, when they had a surfeit of possession, was also broken by the outstanding Lions defence which saw them concede only two tries despite spending a large portion of the second period in their own 22.
But in the end the many tackles — more than a hundred — took their toll and the Lions had to play off the back foot with a brilliant Heini Adams dictating from scrumhalf for the Blue Bulls.
The Lions surprised all but possibly themselves as they dominated the first 25 minutes with quick ruck ball that had the Blue Bulls on the back foot and defending desperately at times.
The Lions scrummed well initially, took three first half lineouts from the home side, and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak and fullback Earl Rose cleared the breakdowns efficiently and quickly — and the Blue Bulls also had very little in the way of possession.
What they got wasn’t used all too wisely, and kicks to the wings and new Springbok Zane Kirchner did not bring the desired results with misdirected up-and-unders.
Flyhalf Burton Francis received very little in the way of possession and did not cover himself with glory on the occasions that he did, and he was replaced by Francois Brummer, still Under-20, after 25 minutes — partly because of his inability to convert two simple penalties, one would have thought, for it seemed unjust to blame Francis for the disjointed performance up to that moment.
But his replacement, from right in front, also hooked a sitter which left the Lions with a 13-0 lead after two penalties by flyhalf Herkie Kruger, who also converted Willem Alberts’ 11th minute try after some good phase play by the visitors.
The Blue Bulls seldom got their game together in this half, but did show signs of taking control in the last ten minutes or so. But they went into the change room 13-0 behind at the break.
The Bulls also did not cover themselves in handling glory, and after 38 minutes still had not put the ball into a scrum. By this time, however, the Lions scrum had started showing signs of strain, although they did have one or two good shoves in the second half.
A brilliant tackle from Dusty Noble on Kirchner as he was going over three minutes after the restart denied the Blue Bulls, who then came with phase after phase — and again decided on a tap penalty that backfired.
But they kept the pressure up relentlessly until centre Jaco Pretorius, despite poor judgement, did well to get it inside to replacement Tiger Mangweni.
Brummer missed the conversion — the fourth miss by the Bulls — to make it 13-8. Kruger helped the home side’s cause with his first miss — a sitter — moments later.
The Blue Bulls were in control and the loss of Lions captain Cobus Grobbelaar just after halftime compounded their problems with little possession now going the way of the visiting side.
The Bulls drew closer after yet another penalty not aimed to the posts when Gerhard van den Heever scored in the corner, with the fifth consecutive missed kick making it 13-10 to the Lions after 56 minutes.
 At last, Brummer had kicking success and after 62 minutes the Blue Bulls had drawn level at 13-all.
Kruger missed his second, and Rose took over as flyhalf. Brummer the n missed another penalty attempt, but a high tackle by Robert Kruger on Francois Hougaard led to a yellow card and, lo and behold, the second successful kick by Brummer from eight.
The Blue Bulls now led 16-13 with 11 minutes to go, and kept their lead as Rose missed the Lions’ third kickable opportunity in the second half.
Brummer sealed it with a penalty on time, and in the end the greater possession of the Blue Bulls that forced the Lions to make more than 100 tackles, was probably the clincher in a match that seldom reached great heights.
Final Score Blue Bulls 19 Lions 13
Blue Bulls:
Try: Tiger Mangweni, Gerhard van den Heever.
Penalties: Francois Brummer (3)
Xerox Lions:
Try: Willem Alberts.
Conversion: Herkie Kruger.
Penalties: Kruger (2)

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