Bjorn Basson scored a hat-trick of tries as the Bulls claimed a 45-25 victory over the Rebels at Loftus on Saturday.
This was far more encouraging from the Bulls. After succumbing to a meek defeat to the Stormers last weekend, they played with far more attacking intent against the Rebels, but they finished the match poorly and were outscored four tries to two in the second half.
The Bulls’ defence and discipline desperately let them down in that second stanza, and it was also these factors that allowed the Rebels to deny the hosts a bonus point despite the fact they led 42-3 early in the second half. It proved the value of the new bonus-point system as the Bulls completely switched off after scoring their sixth try, and the Rebels battled back to make them pay for a lacklustre finish.
Nevertheless, credit should still go to the Bulls for the manner in which they responded to their first-round loss, and they did produce a much-improved performance at the set pieces. An uncharacteristically poor crowd turned up at Loftus for the Bulls’ first home game of the season, which was perhaps a by-product of that uninspiring loss to the Stormers.
Although the Rebels opened the scoring with an early penalty to flyhalf Jack Debreczeni, the Bulls quickly responded with their first try of the season as Basson ran a good line to go over in the corner.
The Rebels quickly created a fantastic opportunity to hit right back, but flanker Adam Thomson made an early claim for blooper of the season when he inexplicably dropped the ball over the tryline while trying to dot down one-handed.
Five minutes later, and the Bulls added to the Rebels’ misery after that missed opportunity as flanker Nic de Jager was put away for a simple try. However, the Bulls then did their level best to better Thomson’s blooper as fullback Warrick Gelant kicked the ball straight into the backside of centre Jan Serfontein in an attempted clearance kick.
While the howler drew plenty of laughs and smiles, the Bulls were extremely fortunate that the Rebels were unable to punish the blunder, and an eventful first half ultimately drew to a close with a decisive double strike as first wing Travis Ismaiel and then Jannes Kirsten went over to score.
The 14-point burst just before the break enabled the Bulls to take a commanding 28-3 lead, and any contest was killed off when Basson scored two quick-fire tries soon after the restart. The Bulls were guilty of taking their foot off the gas after that, though, and the Rebels impressively responded with three tries of their own as Jonah Placid, Ben Meehan and James Hanson all went over.
Nevertheless, two conversions went astray, allowing the Bulls to hold onto a 22-point lead heading into the final quarter. But the Bulls’ decision to opt for a three-pointer rather than a kick to the corner came back to haunt them as Meehan went on to score a 69th-minute try that denied the Bulls a bonus point.
BULLS – 45
Tries : Bjorn Basson (10, 41, 45), Nick de Jager (18),Travis Ismaiel (37), Jannes Kirsten (39)
Penalties : Francois Brummer (62)
Cons : Francois Brummer (11, 19, 38, 40, 42, 45)
REBELS – 25
Tries : Jonah Placid (47), Ben Meehan (51,68), James Hanson (55)
Penalties : Jack Debreczeni(2)
Cons : Jack Debreczeni(48)
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Roelod Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dries Swanepoel.
Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Sean McMahon (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Jonah Placid, 23 Dan Hawkins.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)