The Bulls ran in six tries and they conceded just one as they thoroughly outplayed a Lions side that enjoyed enough possession, but could not make headway against a flat, imposing wall of defence. The Lions also tended to waste their ball with silly handling errors or poor option taking and a lack of flair.
The Lions actually opened the scoring with a seventh-minute penalty by fullback Marais Schmidt, but they had to wait another 52 minutes for their next shot at goal, when Schmidt kicked the conversion of their only try, by wing Anthony Volmink. That came about after the Lions finally got their scrum going and worked the blindside.
By then, however, the Bulls had already scored their bonus point try and the consolation effort allowed the Lions to close the gap to 35-10.
The Bulls enjoyed a healthy 18-3 lead at halftime, thanks to two penalties by flyhalf Tony Jantjies, whose boot kept the home side going forward. The younger brother of Lions star Elton succeeded with five conversions and three penalties in all, as well as scoring an impressive individual try for a haul of 24 points.
Lions loosehead prop Fhumulani Kamanga struggled to get himself settled at the scrum and the result was a series of penalties to the Bulls. One of these, in the 19th minute, was kicked to touch and, from the lineout, Jantjies put in a good straight run to get over the advantage line, allowing scrumhalf Ruan Snyman to pick the ball up at the ruck and swivel through a couple of tackles and score.
The Bulls’ second try came in the 21st minute from another scrum penalty deep inside the Lions’ 22. From the tap penalty, Jantjies charged straight through the flimsy defence of opposite number Garth April to score.
The Lions tried hard to breach the Bulls defence up to the end of the first half, enjoying 68% possession in the first 40 minutes, but their efforts invariably came to nought, ending in a dropped pass or a turnover.
It meant the Lions finished the first half 15 points behind and the second half just saw a repeat of their first-half mistakes.
Another scrum penalty six minutes after the break allowed the Bulls to set up a midfield ruck, fullback Ulrich Beyers popped up in the backline and wing Jurgen Visser was looming on the wing and able to canter over the tryline.
Jantjies kicked the conversion and a penalty in the 54th minute as the Bulls extended their lead to 28-3 and sealed the result.
From the kickoff, Snyman hoisted an up-and-under and Visser appeared out of nowhere to snatch the ball from Schmidt, and Beyers was up in support to take an inside pass and score under the poles (35-3).
The Lions did bounce back with Volmink’s lone try, but the Bulls were quickly back on to the attack.
At a venue where tight play is so admired, it was fitting that the Bulls’ last two tries were scored by loosehead prop Vincent Koch and replacement tighthead Basil Short.
It was at forward where the Bulls had laid the platform for their triumph and the whole pack were brilliant, working as the most well-knit of units.
The Bulls backline was solid in defence and efficient on attack: Jantjies has clearly inherited the genes of his brother, while the midfield pairing of Francois Venter and Jan Serfontein is one of the most promising in the country.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruan Snyman, Tony Jantjies, Jurgen Visser, Ulrich Beyers, Vincent Koch, Basil Short. Conversions: Jantjies (5). Penalties: Jantjies (3).
MTN Golden Lions – Try: Anthony Volmink. Conversion: Marais Schmidt. Penalty: Schmidt.