Cape Town — After leading 35-10 in the first half, the Bulls showed serious desperation in the closing stages to hold on for a dramatic 43-37 bonus-point win over the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night to go back to the top of the Currie Cup log.
The Pretoria outfit ran in five tries in a superb opening 40 minutes that stunned the Johannesburg side, who had selected most of their United Rugby Championship players to avoid a 10th consecutive defeat.
But it was the young Bulls forwards such as flanks Reinhardt Ludwig and Jaco Labuschagne who showed no fear of their more experienced opponents as they got stuck in at the breakdown and burst through a number of tackles with ball-in-hand.
A moment to forget for Burger Odendaal 🙆♂️— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) May 14, 2022
He won't want to see this again as his pass on his own tryline goes straight into the hands of the Bulls to hand them a 43-37 win 🟦#CarlingCurrieCup pic.twitter.com/aTKWHHi5zj
Mind you, Springbok front-rankers Lizo Gqoboka and Bismarck du Plessis weren’t far behind and enjoyed their best finest performances of the season, along with outstanding lock Janko Swanepoel.
They found a way right through the middle of the Lions defence with a series of pick and go carries, and it proved to be an effective strategy to get over the advantage line.
The Bulls pack generated front-foot ball that allowed halfbacks Keagan Johannes and Juan Mostert to set the tone on attack, as they brought centres Marco Jansen van Vuren and Stedman Gans into the game, while the back-three of James Verity-Amm, David Kriel and Kabelo Mokoena were lively whenever they got possession as well.undefined
Their early dominance saw the hosts score three touchdowns in 21 minutes via captain Gqoboka, Du Plessis and Kriel, while lock Ruben Schoeman replied with a lone try for the Lions.
Swanepoel got in on the act as well around the half-hour mark, and then the try of the match came from No 13 Gans following some slick handling and a lovely grubber kick by Kriel.
At 35-10, it looked like the game was over as a contest, but the Lions never gave up. They managed to get back into the match before halftime via captain Burger Odendaal’s try, and that was the catalyst for a thrilling comeback in the second half.
Yellow cards to Ludwig and Du Plessis either side of halftime help the visitors to haul their way back, while the shoulder injury to Mostert disrupted the Bulls backline as Johannes shifted to flyhalf and Bernard van der Linde came on at scrumhalf.
First No 8 Francke Horn dotted down after yet another dominant scrum, before No 10 Jordan Hendrikse walked over to make it 38-27 with 20 minutes to go.
Lions flank Sibusiso Sangweni made it an exciting finale by scoring with eight minutes left, and when Hendrikse slotted a 75 th-minute penalty, it was 38-37 to the Bulls.
But Gert Smal’s young tyros are made of stern stuff, and after Mokoena nearly slid in on the left, the Lions won possession back in their in-goal area – only for Odendaal to throw the ball straight into the hands of Richard Kriel, who scored the winning try.
The Bulls now lead the standings on 42 points, one ahead of the Cheetahs, who have a game in hand after beating the Sharks 44-15 earlier on Saturday.
Bulls 43 – Tries: Lizo Gqoboka, Bismarck du Plessis, David Kriel, Janko Swanepoel, Stedman Gans, Richard Kriel. Conversions: Juan Mostert (5). Penalty: Keagan Johannes (1).
Lions 37 – Tries: Ruben Schoeman, Burger Odendaal, Francke Horn, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibusiso Sangweni. Conversions: Hendrikse (3). Penalties: Hendrikse (2).