The Bulls have defeated the Melbourne Rebels 32-17 at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday night.
The home side won at home last week by six points over Australian rivals, the Reds. Sitting one point behind the first-placed Brumbies, they had an opportunity to reclaim top spot on the Australian conference with the ACT side on the bye. The Bulls, on the other hand, were coming off a demoralising 45-13 loss to the Crusaders in Pretoria last week.
In front of a modest crowd in Melbourne, the Rebels were first to strike through former rugby league player, Marika Koroibete.
After multiple phases of pressure in the Bulls’ half, including an amazing stat of 100per cent possession in the first seven minutes, Quade Cooper eventually broke the line. He offloaded to Dane Haylett-Petty who was brought down just under five metres out.
Marika Koroibete saw an opportunity and ran just on the outside of Haylett-Petty, who popped it up to the winger who dove over for the try. Cooper added the extras and the home side had a seven-nil lead inside ten minutes.
But from the restart, Rob Leota dropped it cold and when his teammates in front picked it up, referee Federico Anselmi penalised the Rebels for offside. The Bulls camped themselves inside the Rebels half before earning a penalty advantage.
With this safety net, Kieron Pollard put in a neat cross-field kick to right-winger Cornal Hendricks who was unmarked in the corner. The sharp-shooter, Pollard, kicked the conversion to level the scores.
The Bulls then scored again just four minutes later when Pollard added more points to his name.
The elusive Rosco Specman burst down the left-hand touchline and some clean ball-skills saw the visitors maintain possession inside the Rebels’ 22. At first receiver, Pollard ran at the line and with Specman looming up on the inside, defender Matt Philip picked the wrong option.
This left Pollard with a gaping hole in which he strolled through for the easiest of tries. He then converted his own try to give the Bulls a seven point lead after eighteen minutes.
Nine minutes later, a box kick was put up by the Bulls and the chasers knocked the ball back, straight into the hands of Hugh Roach. He handed it to youngster, Jack Maddocks, who loped along the left touchline. He was tackled but found Will Genia who was running a beautiful channel and skipped away for an opportunistic try. Cooper missed the tough conversion.
The Bulls managed to extend their lead before halftime when Pollard knocked over a penalty kick from just over forty metres out. The score at half-time, 17-12 in favour of the visitors.
The chat in the break must have worked for the hosts as they burst out of the blocks in attacking fashion.
In the 43rd minute, quick hands found Jermaine Ainsley on the left who was brought down inches from the line. Koroibete found himself at scrum half and he crashed over from short-range to bag his second of the night. Cooper’s conversion was rejected by the post and the scores sat at 17 points apiece.
It was another fifteen minutes until the scores changed, largely thanks to some Specman brilliance.
Pollard threw a flat ball across the face to Specman who broke down the left wing on the halfway line. He chipped and chased his own kick and regathered before pulling up and pivoting around his defender.
An extraordinary overhead pass by the Sevens player then found inside centre Burger Odendaal who enjoyed a free run to the line to score the Bulls’ third of the night. Pollard’s conversion made it 24-17.
The Rebels fought desperately to get back in the game but more Specman magic put the match to bed. Again deep in the home side’s ‘red-zone’, a long, wide pass from Warrick Gelant found Specman on the left-wing who put in a big dive and celebration for the cameras as he dotted down for a well-deserved five-pointer. Pollard could not kick the conversion.
A further three points from the boot of Pollard made it 32-17 and that was how it finished. The Bulls securing their first win outside of South Africa since 2016.
The Bulls travel down to Canberra to take on the Brumbies who will be fresh coming off the bye next week.
The Rebels will be bitterly disappointed with the performance after the win over the Reds last week. They travel to Tokyo to take on the unpredictable Sunwolves in a Saturday afternoon clash.