Blockbusting centre Samu Kerevi’s two second-half tries gave the battling Queensland Reds a sniff of a rare Super Rugby victory over the Bulls at their Loftus Versfeld fortress.
But a missed tackle by fullback Karmichael Hunt quickly snuffed it out as the Bulls rolled away to a 41-22 victory on Sunday morning (AEST).
The Bulls ran in five tries to three and enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and more than 65 per cent of territory as they asserted their ascendancy while the Reds let themselves down with handling errors and discipline issues.
It took a wondrous 42-metre snapped field goal from Reds flanker Liam Gill just before halftime to keep the visitors in contact at 17-8 down at the break.
All looked lost when flanker Lappies Labuschagne capped off a sweeping Bulls move with a try to give the hosts a 27-8 lead with half an hour left to play.
But Kerevi then struck with two tries in six minutes.
First the 108kg outside centre took a pass out wide and beat four defenders on the way to the line then he scored again under the posts after a brilliant Anthony Fainga’a offload put him away on a long run to beat the fullback.
Jake McIntyre converted and the Reds were suddenly back within five points, trailing by just 27-22.
The fightback was short-lived.
Three minutes later, Hunt was beaten by Travis Ishmaiel down the touchline and the Bulls winger ran 40 metres to score in the corner.
Brummer converted to push the Bulls’ lead back out, and replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl scored a converted try in the 71st minute to seal the win.
Reds co-coach Nick Stiles lamented his team’s inability to stick to their pre-game plan as the game got away from them early on.
“I thought we tackled too high, and they got on the front foot,” said Stiles.
Earlier, the Reds were dealt a blow in the third minute, when No.8 Jake Schatz had a knee buckle badly under the weight of a tackle and was forced from the field.
“We gave away some soft penalties, which then allowed the Bulls to play the game deep in our half, and that’s the style of rugby the Bulls love,” Stiles said.
Stiles was heartened but not satisfied by his team’s second half comeback.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of sides that have come to Loftus, and you fall behind on the scoreboard by a couple of tries and things can get pretty ugly pretty quickly,” he said.
“So full credit to the guys that they didn’t stop trying, but that’s not good enough.”
The Reds face the Stormers in Cape Town next week.