Henry Speight of the Brumbies is tackled by the Bulls’ Handre Pollard at Loftus. Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

When the season is done and there are no play-offs on the horizon, the Bulls will look back on this game and know that this is where their Super Rugby campaign went awry.

All of their season’s toil and aspirations came crashing down in a matter of 10 minutes and against 14 men as a spirited Brumbies side ended a five-match losing streak to record a memorable but hard earned victory.

While the Bulls still have a mathematical chance of making the play-offs as the second best team in the South African conference, the reality of their circumstance is that their destiny is no longer in their hands and they will need three extraordinary performances against the Sunwolves, Jaguares and Lions.

The Bulls' inability to make good of the numerical edge they had over the Brumbies not only handed the Australians the game, but it also left a lot of questions about their worthiness to be amongst the top teams in the competition.

And that seed of doubt had been planted much earlier in the game by the disruptive manner in which Wallaby flank David Pocock threw himself into any structured play that the Bulls were trying to manufacture, and it was left to fullback Tom Banks to hammer in the final nail in the home side’s coffin at the end of the game with his 70-metre match-winning try.

Pocock had been a thorn in the flesh for the Bulls throughout the game and above and beyond his poaching abilities at the breakdown, it was his timeous interventions in stopping the Bulls from gathering some steam in the rolling maul and his ability to attract defenders with ball in hand that proved so effective.

Pocock was not alone in not throwing in the towel even when the Bulls had threatened to run away with proceedings in the 54th minute and with an eight-point lead. No, it was the entire Brumbies side that must be commended for believing that victory was theirs even after hooker Folau Faingaa was shown the red card in the 62nd minute.

It was with one less man on the field, and the scoreboard and altitude against them, that the Brumbies showed how the results this season have not been a true reflection of the side they are.

Banks was the first to fan the flames of belief with his brilliant individual try that saw him beat three would-be Bulls defenders to score and hand his side a three-point lead before the Brumbies succeeded with yet another turnover in their half to send wing Andy Muirhead off to score their fifth try and secure an unlikely win.

For the Bulls this game was a mirror reflection of their season up to now, plenty of promise, some good individual tries but a lack of cohesion at the set-pieces and in defence.

Yes, the Bulls at times impressed with their running rugby yesterday, and there were sublime tries by Handré Pollard, Roelof Smit and Johnny Kotze. But the reality of Super Rugby is that if you can’t defend then you have no business being involved in the play-offs. "We let it slip; we didn’t earn it in the end,” said coach John Mitchell.


Sunday Independent

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