The Vodacom Bulls could not overcome the lack of a decent set-piece platform as they sank to a 23-6 defeat at the hands of a fired-up Brumbies side in their Super Rugby match in Canberra on Friday.
Apart from the first few scrums, the Bulls were always on the back foot in that set-piece, conceding two crucial late tightheads, and they could never launch from the lineout either, thanks in the main to excellent Brumbies defensive work but also their own errors in that department.
A tightly-contested first half was dominated by the boots of Christian Lealiifano and Bulls flyhalf Francois Brummer, with Lealiifano kicking three penalties to one against.
But the possession stat of 71% of the ball for the Brumbies showed that the Bulls were obviously in trouble, unable to get on the front foot against a team that dominated the collisions with their big pack and also enjoyed the rub of the green in the breakdowns from referee Ben O’Keeffe.
Brummer closed the gap to 6-9 with a penalty early in the 43rd minute, but they were the Bulls’ last points.
Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss spoke before the match about the brilliance of the Brumbies from first phase and the home side showed the attacking threat they contain in the 45th minute with a superb try straight off a lineout.
Outside centre Tevita Kuridrani went on a storming run, but he didn’t have the ball and was merely the decoy; the real danger was right wing Nigel Ah-Wong, coming up around the outside and breaking through midfield to score from the 22m line.
Lealiifano converted to put the Brumbies 16-6 up and tey were safe as houses 12 minutes later when scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli, a contender for man of the match, caught the Bulls defence unawares at the ruck and dotted down.
The Brumbies were 23-6 up and they kept the Bulls well-contained for the remaining 23 minutes, helped by winning two tightheads and stealing lineout ball.
Brumbies: Tries – Nigel Ah Wong, Tomas Cubelli. Conversions – Christian Lealiifano (2). Penalties –Lealiifano (3).
Bulls: Penalties – Francois Brummer (2).