Error-ridden Bulls rally late, but Edinburgh hold on for URC victory
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Cape Town – A mix of poor discipline, handling errors and questionable refereeing decisions all combined for a forgettable display from the Bulls, who went down 17-10 to Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday night.
The Pretoria side were riding high on confidence following a superb second-half performance in last week’s 29-19 victory against Cardiff in Wales, but they battled to find their rhythm at the DAM Health Stadium this time around.
They rallied late in the second half, but were ultimately unable to make up the lost ground in the end.
Referee Ben Whitehouse of Wales made life difficult for the South Africans as he was quick on the whistle at the breakdowns, allowing the Scottish outfit to contest the breakdowns without there being a clear tackle release or ‘daylight’.
Almost every time the Bulls put a few phases together in the first half, it would end up in a penalty for Edinburgh, whose flyhalf Jaco van der Walt slotted three of those through the posts.
The visitors didn’t help themselves either, though, as they often lost the ball forward in contact, and struggled to secure clean ball from the lineouts.
Edinburgh got off to a dream start as they dotted down in the eighth minute through South African-born fullback Henry Immelman, who chased down wing Damien Hoyland’s clever grubber down the short side.
The home side played with greater intensity, and were quick to the breakdowns, with the Bulls cleaners unable to get to their own ball-carriers in time.
Flyhalf Chris Smith booted a penalty over to make it 5-3 after 21 minutes, but that was as good as it got for the Bulls, who were forced to stay inside their own half for much of the opening 40 minutes by the relentless Edinburgh defence.
Big No 8 Viliame Mata was also a handful to stop with ball-in-hand, while wing Darcy Graham and centre Mark Bennett looked lively on attack as well.
But as the rain started teeming down in the second quarter, Van der Walt banged over those three penalties for a 14-3 lead, and it looked like the Bulls wouldn’t be able to get back into the game.
The South Africans never gave up, though, and despite also conceding a number of scrum penalties, the forwards defended resolutely. Veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis led the charge in that regard, and won several breakdown penalties by contesting possession fiercely on the ground.
One of the rare Bulls forays into the Edinburgh 22 again ended with a mistake as they were unable to win their own lineout near the hour mark, and White then opted to bring on Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn to engineer a miracle in the final quarter.
And with 10 minutes to go, the Bulls suddenly rediscovered their fire, and following a series of carries from the forwards, captain Marcell Coetzee forced his way over, with Steyn landing the conversion to make it 14-10.
Four minutes later, though, centre Bennett slotted a crucial penalty to stretch Edinburgh’s advantage to seven points.
The Bulls nearly levelled matters soon afterwards when a Steyn cross-kick found a flying Madosh Tambwe, who was brought down, but still managed to place the ball over the line.
Referee Whitehouse’s on-field decision was no try, and after watching the replays with the TMO, he felt that Tambwe had propelled himself forward after being tackled short, and that it was a double movement, so it was a penalty to Edinburgh.
The Bulls kept fighting for a late try, but it was not to be, and Edinburgh held on for victory.
Edinburgh 17 – Try: Henry Immelman. Penalties: Jaco van der Walt (3), Mark Bennett (1).
Bulls 10 – Try: Marcell Coetzee. Conversion: Morné Steyn (1). Penalty: Chris Smith (1).