The Bulls produced a powerful performance up front to grind out a 30-27 win over the Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday.
This was a typical Bulls victory. They were dominant at the set pieces and used their kicking game to good effect, while the Sunwolves’ ill-discipline enabled the Bulls to gradually gain the ascendancy.
Although the Bulls didn’t offer much with ball in hand, and midway through the second half there were just three points that separated the sides, ultimately there can be no doubting that they were deserved victors. A second win of the season also leaves the Bulls well placed as they get set for upcoming matches against the Cheetahs, Kings, Reds and Force.
Having said that, the Bulls will be frustrated with their failure to turn their dominance into a more convincing victory, while the Sunwolves deserve credit for a plucky effort and their determination to keep playing until the final minute.
The Sunwolves made an encouraging start to the clash, with former Sharks fullback Riaan Viljoen putting in a well-weighted chip kick that Bulls centre Burger Odendaal failed to cleanly collect. Viljoen was then able to pounce on the loose ball and put flanker Andrew Durutalo away for the opening try in just the second minute.
However, the Bulls steadily worked their way into the encounter, and began to employ their typical power game up front. The visitors were far too strong for the Sunwolves at scrum time, while they often turned to the lineout drive, with Adriaan Strauss scoring a 26th-minute try from the back of a rolling maul.
The pressure asserted by the Bulls also began to have a telling effect, with the Sunwolves conceding a number of penalties, while No 8 Tomas Leonardi spent 10 minutes in the sin bin after a cynical breakdown offence.
Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman slotted three first-half penalties, but also missed a couple of shots at goal, and the Pretoria-based side would have felt they should have been more than just six points ahead at the break.
Nevertheless, there was a sense that the Bulls’ territorial and set-piece dominance would eventually receive due reward, and so it proved as flanker Roelof Smit went over to score in the 47th minute and suddenly open up a bit of a points buffer.
Yet, just when it looked as if the Bulls might begin to pull away, Sunwolves flyhalf Tusi Pisi slotted a second penalty before he then created a scintillating breakout try, with winger Akihito Yamada finishing off a movement that had started from within their own half.
The converted try brought the Sunwolves within just three points of the Bulls, while it signified a clear momentum shift as the men in red realised they were right back in the game despite being up against it for the better part of the first hour.
Viljoen very nearly drew his side level when a monstrous long-distance penalty struck the upright, but the Bulls were able to restore a 10-point lead when Jamba Ulengo was adjudged to have scored after grounding the ball against the padding of the post.
Sunwolves replacement Ed Quirk was shown a yellow card soon after as a result of repeated infringements, but despite this setback, replacement Yuki Yatomi would go over to score with the final play of the game to provide his side with a losing bonus point and somewhat change the complexion of the scoreline.
SUNWOLVES – 27
Tries : Andrew Durutalo (1), Akihito Yamada(56) , Yuki Yatomi (80)
Penalties : Tusi Pisi (13,50)
Drops : None
Cons : Tusi Pisi (2,57,80)
BULLS – 30
Tries : Adriaan Strauss (25), Roelof Smit(46) , Jamba Ulengo (65)
Penalties : Tiaan Schoeman (5,16,20)
Drops : None
Cons : Tiaan Schoeman (27,47, 66)
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa , 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Tomas Leonardi, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Yoshiya Hosoda, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keith Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Futoshi Mori,17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Shinosuke Kakinaga, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Ed Quirk, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Mifiposeti Paea, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Jan Serfontein
Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: Singapore National Stadium, Singapore
Referee: William Houston
Assistant Referees: Shuhei Kubo, Aki Aso
TMO: Takashi Hareda