A 14-man Blue Bulls team managed to keep the Golden Lions at bay with a 31-26 win at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The Blue Bulls, who played more than 60 minutes with 14 men and played more than 10 minutes with just 13 men, produced one of their best performances of the season.
They overcome a red card, two yellow cards and a penalty try to produce a remarkable win.
The win certainly does not ensure them a play-off spot however it is much-needed morale win against a Lions team who were unbeaten before kick-off.
One of the Blue Bulls standout performers during the 80 minutes was Manie Libbok, the pivot not only added two conversions and four penalties but also scored a try.
The other try-scorers for the Bulls were Cornal Hendricks and Dayan van der Westhuizen.
For the Lions, Shaun Reynolds, Pieter Jansen and Stean Pienaar were the try-scorers and the Gauteng side were also handed a penalty try.
The Bulls started the match in fine style, after just 30 seconds the visitors scored what could be one of Currie Cup’s quickest tries ever. From the kick-off, they retain possession before Libbok’s run followed by impeccable pass found Hendricks, who overpowered Stean Pienaar for the first try of the match.
The flyhalf was at it again as he set the Bulls’ second try. The pivot produced yet another perfectly timed pass sending prop Van der Westhuizen over the line for the five-pointer, 12-0 after just 10 minutes.
However, the impeccable start was eclipsed with some shocking discipline, as Fred Eksteen received a red card for a shoulder charge on the 18th-minute mark, leaving Bulls having to continue with 14 men for the rest of the match.
The Lions exploited the numeral advantage and demolished the Bulls’ seven-man pack for the penalty try.
Soon 12-7 turn into 12-12 when Lions flyhalf Shaun Reynolds stepped a few defenders before diving over the line for the try. Unfortunately, the pivot missed from point-blank range and failed to take the lead
Just before the break, Lions’ over-eagerness caused discipline problems, the side conceded two penalties which Libbok had no problem converting for the 18-12 lead at the break.
Bulls were determined to extend their lead and after a failed attempt by Van der Westhuizen, Libbok eventually went over the line. From the back of the scrum Ivan Van Zyl’s loose pass was scooped up by Libbok, who spotted a gap and went over for the five-pointer.
Libbok added the extras for the 25-12 lead.
The Lions managed to work adjust their tactics and instigated their comeback. From the back of the maul hooker, Pieter Jansen powered his way over the line. Reynolds added the conversion to narrow the deficit to just six points, Lions trailing 19-25
After a Libbok penalty, the Bulls were down to 13 men when Andries Ferreira was yellow carded.
Defending with two men short is also going to a challenging task and eventually, the defence folded when Stean Pienaar found a gap and scored for the Lions. Reynolds added the extras to take the Lions within two points.
But yet they conceded another penalty and Libbok added another three-pointer from the 50-metre mark.
Well over the 80th-minute mark and with the Bulls down to 13 men again this time Dylan Sage yellow carded, the Lions set up another valiant effort to steal the match. They had a maul, however, failed to move forward thanks to brave defence by the Bulls, who killed any forward momentum.
In the end, the Bulls won a penalty and secured the thrilling win.
Man of the match: Despite being 14 men the Bulls were the best side, they produced amazing rugby Cornal Hendricks was impressive, however, our nod goes to Blue Bulls flyhalf Manie Libbok, who dictated the match perfectly. He made amazing runs and made a try-saving tackle.
Tries: Penalty try, Reynolds, Jansen, Pienaar
Cons: Reynolds 2,
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Hendricks, Van der Westhuizen, Libbok
Cons: Libbok 2
Pens: Libbok 4
Yellow cards: Andries Ferreira (Blue Bulls, 60 – repeat infringement), Dylan Sage (82 – deliberate knock on)
Red card: Fred Eksteen (Blue Bulls, 18 – Shoulder charge)
Golden Lions: 15
Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Eddie Fouche,
11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8
Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Len Massyn, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard
Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Chergin Fillies, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Vincent Tshituka, 21 James Venter, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Duncan Matthews.
Blue Bulls: 15
Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11
Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl (captain), 8 Tim Agaba, 7
Wian Vosloo, 6 Fred Eksteen, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3
Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Dayan van der Westhuizen.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Madot Mabokela, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Jean Droste, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Stedman Gans.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Jaco Kotze
TMO: Lesego Legoete