Edinburgh cash in on Bulls ill-discipline to claim big win over URC leaders.
By Gavin Rich.
Edinburgh took control during a period early in the second half when the Vodacom Bulls were down to 13 men to score a 31-23 win at the Hive Stadium on Friday that secured Sean Everitt’s men their first full house of log points of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship season.
Two of Edinburgh's four tries came when Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee and No 8 Cameron Hanekom were off the field as the hosts turned a 13-11 halftime deficit into a 21-13 lead.
Coetzee was banished for the rest of the game after he went into a tackle too upright and his shoulder made contact with former Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman's head.
Less than a minute after play was restarted Hanekom was yellow carded for cynically bringing down the Edinburgh drive and the Bulls were two men down.
Edinburgh capitalised immediately as their forwards drove over the line for hooker Ewan Ashman's second driving-maul try.
Four minutes later Edinburgh, with the momentum having shifted significantly in their favour, set for the drive from another attacking lineout but this time passed the ball out and the ball was moved through the hands to exploit the two man advantage and wing Duhan van der Merwe dived over in the corner.
Big Edinburgh No 8 Billy Mata crossed for his side’s bonus point try after an impressive build-up from his team where the ball was switched this way and that across the face of the Bulls defenders before the Fijian crossed between the posts and flyhalf Ben Healy, who had missed his three previous conversion attempts, made no mistake this time.
With Edinburgh leading 28-13 it looked dark for the Bulls so full marks to the Pretoria team for the way they fought back against the odds to score a try through Elrigh Louw off a quick tap and then a Jaco van der Walt penalty to make it a five point game with seven minutes to go.
Bulls blighted by lack of refereeing consistency
The Van der Walt penalty came from an incident that saw Mata, so impressive throughout the game as a carrier for Edinburgh, execute a similar if not more dangerous tackle to the one that Coetzee had earlier.
Unfortunately consistency is not a word that can be accurately ascribed to refereeing around the world at the moment and Bulls coach Jake White was right to hold his head in frustration in the coaching box when the referee showed yellow.
It was argued that there was mitigation in the Mata incident where there wasn't with the Coetzee one but that was hard to see.
Having said that, although an injustice appeared to be done the fact Mata got a yellow rather than a red made no material difference to the result as it came with less than 10 minutes to go until the end of the game.
In other words, regardless of the colour of the card he was off for the rest of the match. But if there was mitigation for Mata there should have been for Coetzee too.
The Bulls did have a good chance to win it from there but discipline again left them down, although in Sergeal Petersen's defence the cynical knockdown that saw him yellow carded in the final minute was perhaps unavoidable given how Edinburgh were shaping to score a fifth try and with the man in possession having unmarked players outside him.
It could have been a penalty try but it was correctly decided there was Bulls cover coming across, thus a try wasn't a certainty.
Instead though Healy kicked the penalty to deny the Bulls a bonus point.
Given the effort they put in across the 80 minutes, a bonus point would have been the least that the Bulls deserved.
It was a good game
The refereeing and disciplinary issues aside, it was a fast paced, high intensity game and it had proper quality too aside from a few knock-ons that may have been the result of the ferocious defensive effort put in by both sides.
The Bulls were the first to score when Edinburgh fullback Blair Kinghorn pretty much presented them with a gift of a try.
Centre Stedman Gans had thrust across the advantage line and Johan Goosen, who otherwise had a poor game before he was replaced shortly before halftime, put in a grubber that Kinghorn made a complete mess of fielding on his line and Devon Williams came through to dot down.
The Bulls might have gone 10-0 ahead had Goosen succeeded with a relatively easy penalty kick, and although Healy missed a drop-goal attempt as well as three conversions, Goosen missed three kicks in all if you factor in a drop goal and two further missed penalty attempts.
Edinburgh, who got the lion’s share of possession and territory in the first half, started to settle around the 15 minute mark and they fought their way back with two penalty attempts and then scored their first driving maul try to make it a two point game at the break.
Edinburgh did appear to be getting the ascendancy at that point but we will never know what might have happened had it not been for Coetzee's card and the damage Edinburgh did when Hanekom, who forced two early breakdown penalties, joined him on the sidelines for what proved to be the decisive 10 minutes of the match.
That's not to say that Edinburgh didn’t deserve to win, they produced some telling moments that thwarted the Bulls, not the least of them being a Grant Gilchrist steal at a Bulls attacking lineout in the final minutes when it was 14 against 14 and the visitors were looking for their winning or match drawing try.
EDINBURGH 31 - Tries: Ewan Ashman 2, Duhan van der Merwe and Bill Mata; Conversion: Ben Healy; Penalties: Ben Healey 3.
VODACOM BULLS 23 - Tries: Devon Williams and Elrigh Louw; Conversions: Johan Goosen and Jaco van der Walt; Penalties: Johan Goosen 2 and Jaco van der Walt.