Bulls put Brumbies' season at stake
May 23, 2014
Bulls veteran Victor Matfield finds plenty of space against the Brumbies
© Getty Images
Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham insists the club's 2014 destiny remains in their own hands despite a South African tour that yielded just one Super Rugby competition point over two games.
The Brumbies were steamrolled by the Bulls 44-23 in Pretoria early Saturday, Australian time, and are at risk of dropping out of the top six by round's end. The bonus-point victory was sweet revenge for the Bulls, who haven't lost at Loftus Versfeld since the Brumbies scored a final-minute match-winner in last year's semi-final.
"It was time for a little bit of payback," Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe said.
Bulls flanker Jono Ross scored a double against the Brumbies © Getty Images
"We were well and truly beaten," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said. "The starts to games in the last couple of weeks have been hurting us."
The Bulls made light work of the visitors' brittle defence, constantly bending and breaking it with acute running lines. Three second-half tries to Brumbies Henry Speight, Mowen and Tevita Kuridrani nearly earned them a four-try bonus point, but yellow cards to Matt Toomua and Josh Mann-Rea didn't help their cause.
The Brumbies suffered a blow to their finals chances in Pretoria (video in Australia only)
The Bulls benefited from their numerical advantage with a try on both occasions, claiming the fourth-try bonus point in the 75th minute. Larkham admitted his side was caught off-guard by a Bulls team that went into the game off a bye - as opposed to the six-day turnaround for the Brumbies.
"The Bulls did their homework and changed things up from the way they had been playing," Larkham said. "They obviously had a two-week preparation; they threw a few things at us that caught us by surprise."
The Brumbies' 2014 title hopes are now on a knife's edge after last weekend's loss to the Cheetahs. With the Waratahs leapfrogging them to second overall following their win over the Rebels, it's the first time the Brumbies haven't led the Australian conference since round four.
And if the Force convincingly beat the second-last-placed Lions on Saturday night the Brumbies will slip to third in the Aussie comp. However Larkham says the Brumbies won't panic as they go up against both the Waratahs and Force in their final three matches.
"Our destiny is in our hands," Larkham said. "But our next game is the Rebels. So our focus is 100 per cent on getting our mind on that next game."
Two out of three wins should earn the Brumbies a finals berth, however they'll likely need all three to win the Australian conference.