Rugby Union


Brumbies trounced by Bulls in Pretoria

PRETORIA: The ACT Brumbies’ play-off hopes are on the brink of disaster after their South Africa tour ended with a nightmare against the Pretoria Bulls.

The Brumbies were outplayed and out-enthused as the Bulls stormed to a 44-23 win at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday morning Australian time.

The commanding win delivered a crippling blow to the Brumbies’ championship dream, leaving them well behind the NSW Waratahs in the Australian conference with three games left in the regular season.

The Waratahs 41-19 thrashing of the Melbourne Rebels lifts them ahead of the Brumbies in the Australian conference race and the Brumbies could drop to as low as seventh if results go against them this weekend.

The Waratahs also have a game in hand on the Brumbies and the two Australian powerhouses will meet at the end of June in a massive battle in Sydney.

But for now the Brumbies will limp back to Canberra licking their wounds after a woeful two-game tour of South Africa.


The 21-point defeat at the hands of the Bulls was the Brumbies' biggest loss since the end of 2011 and their equal biggest loss in South Africa since 1998.

"We were well and truly beaten," said Brumbies captain Ben Mowen.

"It will be tough from here on in. We're making it hard for ourselves with the starts we're getting.

"It would be ideal if we were getting results, but generally we've been good. We just have to turn up on Saturday and have some attitude adjustments and we'll get results."

Loftus Versfeld was the scene for one of the Brumbies' greatest triumphs when they beat the Bulls in the semi-final last year, becoming the first visiting team to win a play-off in Pretoria.

But this year's clash could go down as the one which costs the Brumbies a finals spot with the Bulls taking sweet revenge.

The horror show in Pretoria followed a disappointing loss to the Free State Cheetahs last weekend, leaving the Brumbies with just one point from two games abroad.

They will return to Canberra to play the Melbourne Rebels next weekend. One more loss would all but torpedo the club's aspirations of winning the title.

Asked if the Brumbies had lost the game in the first 25 minutes when they were behind 20-3, director of rugby Laurie Fisher said: "It's hard to chase a side down who are that far ahead at home, a place where they rarely lose.

"It was influential in the game. I thought we toiled hard, but we couldn't get the set piece platform."

The Brumbies lacked precision and their inability to hold on to the ball haunted them all night.

It took just eight minutes for the Bulls to capitalise.

Springboks great Victor Matfield went through a massive hole in the Brumbies' defensive line, throwing a dummy to fool Jesse Mogg and then offloading to Jan Serfontein for the first try of the match.

It got worse for the visitors, leaking penalties, dropping regulation possession and gifting the fired up Bulls early chances to score.

They charged out to a 17-point lead when the burst through the defensive line and flanker Jono Ross charged over the top of Jesse Mogg for the second try of the game.

The Brumbies' defence was soft in the first 40 minutes and their attack tried to go wide before it went forward.

Put simply, it was a disaster half for the visitors and they could see their championship dream starting to slip with one of their worst halves of the season.

The half-time break didn’t settle things down. The Brumbies dropped the ball from the kick-off and were immediately under pressure.

The Bulls went on the attack and bombed an almost certain try, but they stretched their lead when Matt Toomua was sent to the sin bin for a controversial high tackle.

Toomua wrapped his arms around JJ Engelbrecht, but referee Craig Joubert deemed the shot was high and Toomua was given a yellow card.

To add salt to the gaping wound, Bulls winger Bjorn Basson then latched on to an intercept and raced 75 metres to score the Bulls’ third try of the game.

The Brumbies finally showed signs of life when Jesse Mogg almost scored from a chip and chase.

From the ensuing attacking scrum, Henry Speight stepped in at flyhalf and brushed through three defenders close to the line to get the Brumbies on the board.

The Brumbies were their own worst enemies. They failed to clean up from kick-offs, they didn’t put the ball out when they had a chance for an attacking lineout and their defence was horrible.

They struck again late following some superb individual skills from Pat McCabe. McCabe appeared to be going out, but flicked the ball around the corner into the field of play.

The loose ball hit a Bulls player and skipper Ben Mowen was on hand to dive on the scraps to score.

The Bulls hit back when Ross got his second try from a rolling maul before the Brumbies finished the match with a late try to Tevita Kuridrani.


PRETORIA BULLS 44 (Jono Ross 2, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson tries; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 6 penalties; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 2, Handre Pollar conversions) bt ACT BRUMBIES 23 (Henry Speight, Ben Mowen, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 penalties, conversions) at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday morning. Referee: Craig Joubert. Crowd: 16,463.