The Brumbies put up a valiant display against the Bulls before the combination of poor discipline and Morne Steyn’s kicking boot saw them go down fighting 36-34 at Loftus.
The Brumbies looked nervous in the big Loftus surrounds and conceded the first penalty within the first 30 seconds and of course Tuna Morne Steyn landed the opening penalty shot and things weren’t helped when Lealiifano kicked out on the full from the restart.
The Brumbies had plenty of tackling to do in the early stages and conceded another penalty in the sixth minute that Steyn duly converted.
After the nerves settled, the Brumbies got on the board themselves in the 10th minute with a great try to flying Fijian winger Henry Speight down the right wing after great hands from Jesse Mogg, who had earlier stopped the rampaging Bulls prop from scoring a try.
After an error from Pierre Spies on halfway, the Brumbies executed a brilliant backline move from the scrum started by Lealiifano and Jesse Mogg dived over on the right wing to give the Brumbies the lead.
In a game that began to flow freely, the Bulls almost scored their first try but courageous defence again from Jesse Mogg and newly shaven Ben Alexander – who was creating confusion with his hairless hooking partner Stephen Moore – denied Wilhelm Steenkamp but an earlier infringement at the lineout allowed Robot Steyn to kick his third penalty.
Brumbies number 8 Fotu Auelua was causing havoc for the Bulls with some big hits and runs and was showing that he wasn’t afraid of the Bulls forwards.
Bulls winger Bjorn Basson then was on the end of great hands in a backline move after an earlier break from Akona Ndungane.
The breakdown was becoming a real battle when the ball wasn’t being thrown around by either side and the Brumbies were able to respond with a penalty from Lealiifano to make the score 16-13.
Discipline for the Brumbies was becoming a concern with Marius Jonker clamping down on the Brumbies at the breakdown as they tried to counter ruck and Steyn converted his fourth penalty of the half.
The second half would be crucial with the altitude factor to kick in and things didn’t go to plan with Auelua dropping the ball into touch after the Bulls rumbled a rolling maul.
Morne Steyn opened the scoring with a drop goal to extend the lead to nine and that sent the local crowd wild as Brumbies captain Ben Mowen left the field with an injury that looked like a flare up of a neck problem sustained in the Rebels match.
Once again another penalty against the Brumbies right on halfway allowed Steyn to showoff his kicking prowess and converted to stretch the lead to 12 and begin turning the screws on the visitors.
With Jake White ringing the changes for the second half, the Brumbies seemed to hit a brick wall of Bulls defenders and weren’t able to make inroads.
Marius Jonker somehow missed a knock on from Morne Steyn and everyone stopped expecting the whistle but CJ Stander kept playing and the Bulls ran untouched to the corner – the look on Steyn’s face gave it away like Richie being caught for offside!
As the game ticked over to the final 20 minutes, the Bulls extended the lead with another Steyn penalty, this time from inside his own half. It was as if the Brumbies were taking 1 step forward but taking 20 back with loose balls being kicked away by the Bulls.
However, they kept toiling away and on the back of a penalty Brumbies centre Andrew Smith scored under the posts with ten minutes remaining after good lead up play by Ita Vaea.
Another Steyn penalty (do you see a theme here?) saw the Bulls all but secure the win, but the Brumbies went close to scoring their fourth try of the night but Henry Speight lost the ball in the process of scoring.
But they wouldn’t be denied as reserve half back Ian Prior scored in the shadows of full time to make the hosts nervous as the clock ticked down.
And they played right to the death with reserve hooker Anthony Hegarty scoring right on the full time siren to secure 2 bonus points for the visitors.
The Brumbies can take heart from this display after outscoring the more fancied Bulls side five tries to two and also coming back from the second half defecit. The display from the reserves would also make Brumbies fans proud as the head to Johannesburg to take on the Lions next week who secured 4 points this week by way of the bye.
Bulls 36 – Stander, Basson tries, Steyn con, 7 pens, drop goal def Brumbies 34 – Speight, Mogg, Smith, Prior, Hegarty tries, Lealiifano 3 cons, pen
Plays of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’: numerous.