The Lions march on while it’s back to the drawing board for the Bulls.
Handing out a lesson in forward domination, last year’s runners-up underlined their status as the top South African Super Rugby side by bulldozing the home side – who managed to score two late consolation tries – to run out convincing 49-35 winners at Loftus on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions scored seven tries to four for a bonus-point win.
The scoreline doesn’t quite reflect their dominance.
After the Lions made their physical presence felt early in the game by dominating the scrums, it was the Bulls who initially fought back by putting immense pressure on the contact areas, where Bulls openside flank Roelof Smit was superb.
The Lions held a jittery 21-14 halftime lead that was wiped out when scrumhalf Ross Cronje spilled possession.
But, given their stature, recovered by scoring a fourth try by the bulldozing Malcolm Marx.
It saw them pull ahead 28-21 in the 51st minute, which was essentially the beginning of the end for the Bulls, who were down to 13 men at one stage.
Who was the star in this match?
It was probably unfair not to name the entire Lions pack but hooker Marx was superb, taking the challenge to the Bulls at the breakdown while his role in the Lions dominant scrum was immense. He was rewarded with a try.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions showed their intentions early by scoring two great maul tries by their props Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen. Yet the more important thing that those score represented was that the men from Doornfontein illustrated that they can vary their game. It could stand them in good stead going forward.
- One compelling battle was between the Springbok No 10s, Elton Jantjies and Handre Pollard. Jantjies’ superb grubber saw lock Marvin Orie glide through in the 32nd minute, but the Bulls responded superbly with wing Johnny Kotze dotting down five minutes after a great cross-kick by Pollard, who actually played centre as an emergency replacement for Burger Odendaal.
- Pollard was at it again when he forced Cronje’s brain melt but it didn’t quite translate into a rally as the Lions showed their composure and exploited the two yellow cards. No-one can, however, deny that the Bulls are much improved, especially given their fast finish.
Bulls – Tries: Johnny Kotze, Handre Pollard, Lizo Gqoboka, Travis Ismaiel. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2), Marnitz Boshoff. Penalties: Boshoff (3).
Lions – Tries: Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Marvin Orie, Malcolm Marx, penalty try, Sylvian Mahuza, Ross Cronje. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (6).