It was just 20 minutes of poor rugby in the second half, but Bulls coach Nollis Marais admitted it was enough to take the gloss off their 45-25 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria at the weekend.
Before that, the Bulls had produced some champagne rugby to storm into a 42-3 lead and seemed to have guaranteed themselves a bonus point in their first home match. But poor ball-retention, struggles at the breakdown and aimless kicking all contrived to let the Rebels back into the game, their four unanswered tries robbing the Bulls of a bonus point that could prove crucial in the long run.
“Those 20 minutes in the second half we let them back in the game. We should have had the bonus point, but only two of their tries they really had to work for. I don’t know where the idea came from to kick so much, so many little chippies!
“And our defence was really poor for those 20 minutes of the second half, we made simple mistakes which changed the momentum in their favour. We weren’t very good at the breakdown either, we were penalised four times there in the second half and that allowed the Rebels to have lineouts in our half,” Marais said after the game.
“But last week we couldn’t score a single try and this week we got six, so that is a positive and shows us the way to play moving forward. We’re trying to play ball-in-hand rugby after seven or eight years of playing the same way, and we need to stick to the plan. Some of the tries we scored were brilliant and that’s the way forward. When last did we score six tries?” Marais continued.
Unfortunately, the Bulls then let the Rebels score four tries, meaning they only took four log points away from the game and leaving them still five points behind the Stormers in South Africa Conference 1.
“We were fully aware that the bonus point was vital, we were in position to score again, we got there but we just couldn’t finish. We gave away penalties which allowed them easy exits and we took the pressure off them,” captain Adriaan Strauss said.
“So there are mixed emotions, it was good to win and to play a good brand of rugby, but we needed the bonus point. We’re happy, we’ll enjoy the win, but we let the bonus point slip so there are some regrets. But it’s a step in the right direction. If we get quick ball, if we’re on the front foot, we showed we can play some rugby, but if not we get stuck,” the outstanding hooker said.