A barnstorming second-half performance by the Vodacom Bulls saw them clinch their maiden Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory by 29-19 (halftime 3-16) over Cardiff in the Welsh capital on Saturday night.
After five halves of lacklustre rugby in Europe, the Carling Currie Cup champions finally showed what they are capable of by totally dismantling the Welsh club after the break of their match at Cardiff Arms Park.
Whatever was said in the changerooms at the break, clearly had an effect as Marcell Coetzee brilliantly led his troops in one of the best second half comebacks of the season.
Their defence was also superb, as the Bulls completed 95% of their tackles, while they looked a lot more dynamic and energetic with ball in hand.
The Bulls “won” the second half, 26-3, with tries by Elrigh Louw – from a tap penalty on the Cardiff line – and Madosh Tambwe, who hacked ahead a loose ball and showed pure pace to beat the cover defence to score, and a flawless kicking display by Chris Smith setting the tone on the score board.
The men from Pretoria were calmer and stuck to their basics after the break, protected the ball better and took their scoring opportunities.
But that only came after a massively frustrating first-half, with unforced errors and bad discipline costing the Bulls 16 points as well as valuable momentum when it looked like they could be in a position to score.
Six penalties conceded in the first 10 minutes set the tone, as the Pretorians especially struggled at the breakdown and lost excessive amounts of possession, often in attacking positions on the field.
Even when Cardiff were down to 14 men, with Seb Davies (lock) in the sin bin, the hosts scored 10 unanswered points, with their other lock, Matthew Screech, burrowing over for a try after a number of pick-and-go’s.
Rhys Priestland was faultless off the tee, slotting three penalty goals and a conversion, to a solitary three-pointer by Smith – who replaced Johan Goosen in the 16th minute – to ensure Cardiff took a comfortable lead into the break.
However, a different Bulls team emerged from the sheds for the second half and the rest is history.
Cardiff 19 (16) – Try: Matthew Screech. Conversion: Rhys Priestland. Penalty goals: Priestland (4).
Vodacom Bulls 29 (3) – Tries: Elrigh Louw, Madosh Tambwe. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (5).
– SA Rugby