Reds down frustrated Bulls
Brenden Nel
March 10, 2018

The Queensland Reds came from 14-3 behind to beat the Vodacom Bulls 20-14 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Brisbane on Saturday.

In a frustrating game by the Pretoria side, they started exceptionally well but then fell into old habits. The Bulls allowed the home side to dominate play, claw their way back into the game and hold out for their second win in as many weeks under coach Brad Thorne.

The Bulls' only saving grace was the fact that their defensive system was sound for much of the game, as a more polished side – like their opposition in the next fortnight in New Zealand – would have probably put plenty more points on the board with the second half gluttony of possession that the Reds enjoyed.

Discipline was the biggest bugbear for John Mitchell’s side, as they conceded no less than 15 penalties on the evening, several coming from the setpiece, which looked limp against a young Reds pack, and raised the same old spectres of the Bulls scrum being below par.

Certainly on the evening it was so in Brisbane, but as the game wore on, they were beaten to the breakdown more, and the Reds were allowed to keep the ball for several phases at a time. They then built pressure which allowed them to exploit the Bulls' weaknesses out wide.

While defence was an asset for the Bulls on the evening, their attack play wilted as the match went on, with decision-making lacking and ultimately costing them a chance of winning the game.

The stats tell a story of 28 missed tackles, which may make the statement about the defence sound a little strange, but the scramble defence, for most of the match, held firm. Individually it certainly needs attention.

The Reds team are by no stretch of the imagination a powerhouse in Super Rugby, but they managed to capitalise on Bulls mistakes, and the visitors remained their own worst enemies as the game wore on. At one point in the second half they enjoyed 98 per cent of possession in a 20-minute period, yet the Reds still somehow couldn’t put the Bulls away.

The penalties were eventually the Bulls' downfall as the only difference between the two sides were the two kicks that James Tuttle and Jonno Lance put over.

The Bulls started off exceptionally well and rumbled their way into the Reds' 22 in the opening minutes, showing composure and patience to soften the Reds up as Jesse Kriel moved wide on a pass to draw the defender, before putting Warrick Gelant away for the opening try.

Their defence held the Reds out for 10 minutes to concede only a penalty, before Travis Ismaiel saw a mismatch in his own 22, broke the line and set up Andre Warner on the inside for a beautiful counter-attacking try.

At 14-3 up the Bulls looked like they were in control. They were cruising towards the break when a defensive mistake by Ismaiel, who came inside, left the gap open on the touchline for Caleb Timu to trot in untouched.

It was a big blow before the break that lifted the Reds to within four points, and they were buoyed even more five minutes into the second half. That's when the Bulls missed an easy touch finder and Samu Kerevi started a move that flatfooted Nic de Jager and Pierre Schoeman to offload to Aidan Toua to score.

At 17-14 the Reds continued to dominate and at times it was difficult to believe they weren’t going to run away with it. But all along the Bulls managed to keep the Reds out. The odd times they got the ball on attack the visitors tried, but looked out of sorts and rattled, leading to nothing.

Lance eventually sunk the Bulls with a penalty to guide the Reds home - their second consecutive victory in as many weeks under Thorne. But it will be the Bulls who head to tougher challenges in New Zealand frustrated because this was a game they could have won.


Queensland Reds – Tries: Caleb Timu, Aidan Toua. Conversions: James Tuttle (2). Penalties: Tuttle, Jonno Lance.

Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Andre Warner. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2).

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