Lions 18 Bulls 32
JJ Engelbrecht of the Bulls sets up the winning try. Photo: Getty Images
JOHANNESBURG: The Bulls stormed back to outscore the Lions by five tries to two on Saturday and triumph 32-18 in a Super Rugby Highveld derby at Coca-Cola Park.
A bonus-point victory lifted the three-time title-holders to 29 points -- two less than overall leaders the Chiefs of New Zealand and level with the Stormers in the South African conference.
It was the fifth triumph in seven games for the Pretoria-based Bulls and sixth consecutive loss for the Johannesburg-based Lions, who prop up the southern hemisphere provincial championship table with 10 points.
Bulls succeeded despite a rare off-day by ace goal kicker and Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn, who slotted two conversions and a penalty to raise his season tally past the 100-point mark, but missed five other shots at the posts.
It did not matter as the visitors recovered from conceding a 78-second try and trailing by 10 points after 15 minutes to lead 20-10 at half-time and an early second-half try extended an advantage they never looked like surrendering.
"We have been working hard on improving our try-scoring ability and this was another good effort by the boys," said victorious skipper Pierre Spies.
"I am proud of my team for what they achieved tonight and now we must prepare for the Brumbies at Loftus next weekend. They are on a roll and we must maintain our momentum to succeed."
Lions captain, flanker and try scorer Joshua Strauss retorted: "We started really well, then let the Bulls back into the game and allowed them to dictate the pattern of play.
"After starting so well, we had a bad middle spell before coming back in the closing stages. Poor handling was a problem for us and something we must work on," the star with the bushiest beard in Super 15 added.
Scrum-half Tian Meyer charged down a clearance kick by Steyn to dive over for a try which fly-half Elton Jantjies converted and centre Jaco Taute landed a long-range penalty to give the Lions a 10-point lead.
Bulls hit back with 20 unanswered points before the break as they translated possession and territorial dominance into points via tries from wing Akona Ndungane, scrum-half Francois Hougaard and full-back Zane Kirchner.
Steyn kicked one conversion and one penalty and after flank CJ Stander went over the fourth, bonus-point try just after half-time, he converted the last try for the Bulls from lock Juandre Kruger.
Jantjies kicked a penalty for the Lions and workaholic Strauss barged over for a try, but hopes of a bonus point for losing by seven or fewer points vanished when Taute knocked on during a post-hooter surge toward the Bulls try-line.
BULLS 32 (Francois Hougaard, Zane Kirchner, Juandre Kruger, Akona Ndungane, CJ Stander tries Morne Steyn 2 cons pen) bt LIONS 18 (Tian Meyer, Joshua Strauss tries Elton Jantjies con Jantjies, Jaco Taute pens) at Ellis Park. Referee: Garratt Williamson.