Bulls mauled to the tune of ‘YMCA’

Sunday Times - - Sport Rugby - By LIAM DEL CARME

● The Lions had more than just a win and con­fer­ence hon­ours on their mind against the Bulls yes­ter­day.

One of their ob­jec­tives this sea­son was to score more tries than any other team in the league stages of Su­per Rugby, and by the time they kicked off in their fi­nal match be­fore the knock­out stages they trailed the log-lead­ing Cru­saders by five tries.

They scored six, but more im­por­tantly did enough to top the South African con­fer­ence and earn host­ing rights for next week’s quar­ter­fi­nal against the Jaguares.

Pre-match talk cen­tred on the Lions find­ing con­sis­tency and with it per­haps an­other gear to sus­tain their chal­lenge as they go into the knock­out stages.

Game man­age­ment is go­ing to be an area in which they need to im­prove. They didn’t make their dom­i­nance stick against the Sharks two weeks ago and against the Bulls all their huff­ing and puff­ing failed to draw re­wards.

They searched for a killer blow in this game as the third quar­ter drew a stale­mate with the Bulls hang­ing on grimly in the face of sus­tained Lions’ pres­sure.

A be­lated penalty try proved a pres­sure re­lease for the Lions be­fore Ruan Com­brinck’s sec­ond try put the mat­ter be­yond doubt with 14 min­utes left.

At the start though the match had a bas­ket­ball feel about it with play shift­ing from end to end.

The Bulls with straight run­ners onto short passes made head­way but they equally ex­celled in the wide-open spa­ces. Their open­ing score came from a long-range in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic ef­fort from fly­half Manie Lib­bok but he was aided by El­ton Jan­tjies’s fee­ble at­tempt at a tackle.

The Bulls cut the Lions’ de­fence to shreds in the open­ing quar­ter. Lib­bok, cen­tres War­rick Ge­lant and Jesse Kriel were ha­bit­ual evaders of the Lions’ grasp in the early stages.

The Lions needed to re­store the con­ti­nu­ity and rhythm to their play that made them a force ear­lier in the sea­son.

Grad­u­ally their for­wards took con­trol and by em­ploy­ing a nar­row chan­nel of at­tack through their bruis­ers up­front, they had the Bulls back-ped­alling. Flank Cyle Brink bashed into and over Bulls de­fend­ers, hooker Malcolm Marx did much the same, and lock Franco Mostert’s leg­driv­ing thrusts are in­te­gral to their op­er­a­tion. Brink is un­der­rated and the Lions will do well to re­tain him next sea­son.

The hosts’ maul, an oft-used tool of de­struc­tion was set in mo­tion in the 18th minute with im­me­di­ate suc­cess. They didn’t score di­rectly from it, but when the ball reached Com­brinck on the oppo- site wing, a try was in­evitable.

The Lions en­joyed a pe­riod of dom­i­nance but strug­gled to score. Their cause was hardly aided by ref­eree Mar­ius van der Westhuizen, who in­ex­pli­ca­bly failed to es­ca­late his cen­sure of law-flout­ing Bulls. It bordered on dere­lic­tion of duty. By the break the penalty count was 10-1 in the Lions’ favour with most of those of­fences com­mit­ted in­side the Bulls 22.

Marx even­tu­ally barged over to level the score and only after­wards did Van der Westhuizen reach into his pocket to ad­e­quately pun­ish a Bull.

Prop Pierre Schoe­man saw yel­low in the 35th minute.

And while we’re on the topic of of­fi­ci­at­ing, the start-stop na­ture of matches is do­ing lit­tle to pro­mote Su­per Rugby as a spec­ta­cle. Dur­ing one break yes­ter­day the Vil­lage Peo­ple’s YMCA al­most played in its en­tirety be­fore the tele­vi­sion match of­fi­cial ar­rived at a sat­is­fac­tory conclusion.

That the Lions were only seven points to the good at the break was only partly due to Van der Westhuizen’s lais­sez-faire han­dling of af­fairs. There were times that the Lions’ im­pre­ci­sion in the pass let them down.

The Bulls cut the Lions’ de­fence to shreds in the open­ing quar­ter

Pic­ture: Syd­ney Seshibedi/Gallo Im­ages

Bulls flanker Them­be­lani Bholi at­tempts to break a Lions tackle by cen­tre Harold Vorster, but an­other lies in wait dur­ing the Su­per Rugby match at El­lis Park yes­ter­day. The Lions won 38-19 and scored six tries in the process

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