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Bulls hold on to survive Griquas comeback and stay on course for Currie Cup home semi-final

Embrose Papier of the Bulls kicks the ball during their Carling Currie Cup match against Griquas at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Embrose Papier of the Bulls kicks the ball during their Carling Currie Cup match against Griquas at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published May 7, 2022

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Cape Town — The Bulls scored five first-half tries, but then had to withstand a second-half onslaught from a spirited Griquas outfit to run out 48-38 Currie Cup victors at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The Pretoria side returned to the top of the log with 37 points, one ahead of the Cheetahs – although the Bloemfontein side have a game in hand.

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But after a dominant opening 40 minutes, the Bulls nearly blew it after halftime as Griquas launched an audacious comeback, and were rewarded with a bonus point for scoring four tries to remain in fourth position on 21 points.

The two sides exchanged early five-pointers via Stravino Jacobs’ impressive finish and Sango Xamlashe’s tenacity to force his way over, but after that, it was all Bulls.

It was the home side’s forwards who generated the necessary momentum to knock over the Griquas defenders. Flank Cyle Brink was particularly effective in the wider channels and was hard to stop, but young hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels had arguably his game in a Bulls jersey with several barn-storming bursts at close quarters.

Captain Arno Botha and lock Walt Steenkamp were their usual busy self, and that allowed the Bulls backline to play with absolute freedom on attack. Madosh Tambwe was his energetic self in looking for work all over the pitch, while Canan Moodie came into the line nicely from fullback to complement Jacobs’ power.

Brink, Jacobs, Reinhardt Ludwig and Moodie all crossed the whitewash to set up a 36-5 halftime lead, and everyone watching would’ve thought that the match was over as a contest.

But no one told Griquas that. Almost humiliated before the break, the men from Kimberley showed what they’re all about in the second stanza as they kept the ball alive and tried to shift the contact point instead of engaging in a physical confrontation with the Bulls pack.

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After Wessels scored for the Bulls, Griquas produced 19 unanswered points via a penalty try – which saw Lizo Gqoboka yellow-carded for collapsing a driving maul – and then wing Munier Hartzenberg and flank Hanru Sirgel secured a four-try bonus point.

They were suddenly back in the match at 41-24 and with the Bulls at 13 men after Tambwe was sent off for 10 minutes for a deliberate knockdown.

But Harold Vorster stopped the bleeding for the Bulls as the No 12 grabbed a five-pointer after another Wessels surge to make it 48-24 with 15 minutes to go.

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Griquas weren’t done yet, though. Sirgel was awarded his second try of the night after a TMO review, and replacement Chris Hollis added further anxiety to the Bulls camp with the sixth touchdown, which was converted by Zander du Plessis to make it 48-38 with six minutes to go.

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The Bulls, though, saw out the final stages without any further drama to avoid a similar fate to the Sharks – who lost 20-10 to the Pumas in Durban on Friday night – and secure a vital win to stay on course for a home semi-final.

Points-Scorers

Bulls 48 – Tries: Stravino Jacobs (2), Cyle Brink, Reinhardt Ludwig, Canan Moodie, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Harold Vorster. Conversions: Chris Smith (5). Penalties: Smith (1).

Griquas 38 – Tries: Sango Xamlashe, Penalty Try, Munier Hartzenberg, Hanru Sirgel (2), Chris Hollis. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (3).

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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