The Bulls’ overseas tour in Super Rugby got off to a losing start as they were beaten 23-18 by the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday. The visitors got the opening points of the match through a Handre Pollard penalty in the seventh minute. Ihaia West leveled matters with a penalty of his own before a second penalty from Pollard put the the Pretoria franchise back in the lead.
The hosts got their first try of the match after Pollard failed to find touch with his clearance attempt and Lolagi Visinia countered to score near the posts, having beaten a number of defenders in the process. West slotted the extras as the hosts led 10-6 after 20 minutes. Frans Ludeke’s side were back into the tie with a try from Jan Serfontein after great work by Pollard to set him up. Ludeke’s lads dominated territory and had much more of the ball, however they gave away two penalties in the latter stages of the half which West converted to give John Kirwan’s men a 16-13 lead at the break.
The second half continued in a similar vein to the first, with the away side in control and they regained the lead after a great move which JJ Engelbrecht initiated from his own half which Serfontein rounded off for his second try of the match. The home team suffered a blow as they lost their skipper Steven Luatua through injury, but they recovered well and were back in front through George Moala’s try in the 68th minute. West stepped up and slotted away the conversion.
The South Africans kept the pressure up on the Blues defence but Kirwan’s charges held out to secure the win. Despite the loss the Bulls went top of the South African Conference thanks to the bonus point they earned due to losing by less than seven points, while the Blues remained bottom of the New Zealand Conference.