Bulls wing Rosko Speckman takes on the Waratahs defence at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The Bulls claimed a timely 28-21 Super Rugby win over the Waratahs after they responded to second-half pressure with a late converted try at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

After trailing 18-7 at halftime, the Waratahs fought back to level scores at 21-21, and since the momentum was with them for the greater part of the second half, there was a real threat that they could grind out a win.

However, the Bulls stood firm and managed a late lineout steal to deny the Waratahs in the end.

The visiting Australians were impressive at the start as they set off on several attacks, mainly on the back of a crisp inter-passing game along their backline.

However, the Bulls’ line-speed on defence prevented any early damage as the opponents’ rhythm was disrupted.

Bulls flyhalf Handrè Pollard opened the scoring with a penalty in the seventh minute, and moments later, the 3-0 lead became 10-0 after fullback Warrick Gelant crossed for a converted try after the Waratahs defence sprung an opening out wide.

The Waratahs response was almost immediate after midfielder Karmichael Hunt secured a turnover, which led directly to a try by scrumhalf Nick Phipps. His halfback partner Bernard Foley added the conversion (10-7).

As it turned out, that was the visitors’ final first-half score, although they came close on two occasions, but desperate Bulls defence thwarted scoring efforts virtually on their tryline.

The Bulls went further ahead in the 17th minute when their No 8 Duane Vermeulen broke away from a Waratahs lineout and brought off a timely intercept.

He set off on a 40m sprint over and then made a hand-off, before diving over to round off a spectacular individual effort.

Pollard’s conversion failed, but he was on target a few moments later, and that closed out the first half at 18-7 in favour of the Bulls.

The Bulls’ well-known ploy of scoreboard pressure came into play early in the second half as they opened a 14-point lead after Pollard was on target with one of two penalty attempts (21-7).

The Waratahs seemed to gain momentum, even though they were having a torrid time at scrum-time.

They managed to retrieve the ball from a fast retreating scrum around the 49th minute and fed fullback Kurtley Beale, who wrong-footed the defence before scoring a converted try.

The Waratahs continued to hold the upper hand in general play, and on the hour mark they breached the opposition defence, but wing Curtis Rona lost possession ahead of his touchdown attempt.

Rona made amends six minutes later when he crossed for a converted try after the Bulls’ defence was exposed out wide to level the scores at 21-21.

The 21-year-old substitute prop Simphiwe Matanzima had the smallish Loftus crowd on its feet moments later when he burst through the opposition defence for his first Super Rugby try, which allowed the Bulls to regain the lead.

Pollard’s conversion was good and the Bulls enjoyed a seven-point advantage, which they did not relinquish by the time referee Jaco Peyper sounded the final whistle.

Points-Scorers

Bulls 28 – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Duane Vermeulen, Simphiwe Matanzima. Conversions: Handrè Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (3).

Waratahs 14 – Tries: Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2).

African News Agency (ANA)