The Bulls’ Super Rugby campaign is up and running after they beat the Sunwolves 34-21 at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria, despite playing the entire second half with 14 men.
Renaldo Bothma’s was sent off a minute into the second period for a dangerous tackle but, the Bulls rallied to record their first win of the season, controlling possession and the clock.
Nollis Marais’ men led 17-14 at the break and only really found their mojo once they went a man down.
A brace from Jan Serfontein (back to his best) and tries from Pierre Schoeman and Jason Jenkins was enough for the victory but not a bonus point.
The Japanese will rue a gilt-edged opportunity to get a famous win against South Africa’s most successful team in their own backyard but, they fell away when they should have kicked on.
They allowed the hosts to score 17 unanswered points while going scoreless until their skipper dotted down in the final 10 minutes.
Hayden Cripps’ third-minute penalty gave the visitors an early lead but, die Bulle scored almost immediately after the restart.
The Sunwolves fumbled a carry near their try line. Van Zyl picked up the bouncing ball and shifted it to Serfontein, who on the angle, stepped inside and beat the cover tackle to score under the posts.
It was 10-6 after Handré Pollard and Cripps traded penalties. Then, a lineout, inside the Sunwolves’ 22 was expertly dispatched by a bulldozing forward drive by the Bulls.
Schoeman stood, ball in hand, from the rubble of players; Pollard added the extras.
Cripps kept the visitors in touching distance. His third penalty reduced the scoreline to 17-9 on 33 minutes.
On the stroke of halftime, a mistake from Pollard gifted the Sunwolves momentum. The 23-year-old failed to find touch after Jenkins won a penalty, at the breakdown, inside their 22.
Shota Emi, who was outstanding, collected the kick and started a counter-attack from inside his half. He beat two defenders before changing direction with a swivel of the hips and a step. The fullback then sent an outrageous offload to Kenki Fukuoka.
The fullback, with defenders upon him, sent an outrageous offload to Kenki Fukuoka in support.
The winger needed no second invitation, with a swerve of his hips, he sent Piet van Zyl flying past, put on the gas burners and beat Warrick Gelant’s desperate cover defence.
The conversion was missed but, the halftime deficit was only three.
The second stanza opened with the red card.
The numerical advantage was wasted, the visitors proceeded to concede two converted tries and a penalty apiece from Pollard and Schoeman, ending any chance of victory as 17-14 fast became 34-14.
The Sunwolves did manage another try. After some smart build-up play and quick ruck ball, the captain crossed the whitewash to reduce the scores to 13 points.
They thought they had claimed a late losing bonus point but, Liaki Moli’s try was overturned by the TMO after assistant referee Stuart Berry, spotted a knock on in the act of grounding.
Instead, they leave Pretoria with nothing.
The final score is Bulls 34 (17) Sunwolves 21 (14)
Tries – Serfontein (2), Schoeman, Jenkins
Pen – Pollard (2)
Con – Pollard (2), Schoeman (2)
Cards – Red (Bothma, 41st minute)
Tries – Fukuoka, Quirk
Pen – Cripps (3)
Con – Ogura
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Stuart Berry
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel.
15 Shota Emi, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shumei Matsuhashi, 6 Ed Quirk (captain), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.
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