They did it! The Reds took a vital step closer to the Super 14 semi-finals by knocking over the Bulls 19-12 in Brisbane on Saturday.
They did it! The Reds took a vital step closer to the Super 14 semi-finals by knocking over the defending champion Bulls 19-12 in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Reds were full value for their win in an energy-sapping spectacle from start to finish with the home side pulling all the strings that ultimately left the fatigued Bulls dead on their feet.
The hosts outclassed, outran and – unbelievably – outmuscled their opposition in every facet of play as the South Africans suffered their second defeat on tour.
The Bulls had a chance to steal it at the death but couldn't penetrate the red wall of defence. A crucial penalty against the visitors for holding on then allowed the Queenslanders to run down the clock for a memorable victory.
Tactically the Reds were excellent and their ability to sustain their effort for 80 minutes suggests they must be considered one of the favourites for a semi-final berth.
They displayed the variation in play that has seen them improve exponentially this season. The Reds looked threatening when employing their primary attacking strategy, expansive surges that targeted the wide channels, and profited from drives around the ruck fringe and down the middle.
As for the Bulls, they looked tired which was inevitable given that the their key players have played an exorbitant amount of rugby in the last year. However, to forecast doom would be foolish, for this is a side that have shown an irrepressible ability to rebound after setbacks.
The Reds were unlucky not to race up a comfortable lead such was their dominance for the first hour of the match. But a Morne Steyn ankle tap on Rod Davies, great last-ditch defence by full-back Zane Kirchner and several last passes just going astray kept the visitors in the game.
Even though it was the home side who dominated the opening exchanges, Bulls flanker Derick Kuun opened the scoring with a try in the fifth minute after the visitors counter-attacked from deep inside their own half.
Morne Steyn added the conversion, but they were not to score again for another 63 minutes.
The home side got on the board when flank Scott Higginbotham outsprinted two Bulls backs to Will Genia's long-range speculative kick that rolled into open space close to the line.
Reds pivot Quade Cooper missed the conversion but added a penalty to send the home side into the break with an 8-7 lead, after Steyn had missed a kickable penalty as the half-time hooter sounded.
When the visitors lost a rare line-out off their own throw in the 58th minute, the Reds' back-line pounced with centre Will Chambers fading into space and then flick passing for Anthony Faingaa and Digby Ioane to put wing Rod Davies over for a 19-7 lead.
But they had to withstand a concerted late surge from the South Africans, who pulled to within a converted try when replacement loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg scored with 11 minutes left to set up a thrilling finish.
However, the Reds dug deep to withstand a last-ditch Bulls' onslaught on their try-line and Genia kicked the ball out of play after the final siren to claim a significant victory.
The two-tries-all win, which left the Brisbane crowd in raptures, looms as the launching pad towards a first finals campaign in nine years for the perennial battlers.
The Bulls could only come out of the torrid contest with a losing bonus point to relinquish the competition lead to the Crusaders on points difference.
Man of the match: Digby Ioane was a stand-out for the Reds while the Faingaa twins – Anthony and Saia – were in the thick of everything. But none were better than Will Genia who did everything, including setting up the Reds' first try with the vision and execution to put Scott Higginbotham over with a 80m kick following a Bulls attacking turnover.
Tries: Higginbotham, Davies
Pens: Cooper 3
Tries: Kuun, Wannenburg
Reds: 15 Peter Hynes, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Jack Kennedy, 19 Ezra Taylor, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Brando Va'aulu.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Stephan Dippenaar, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Derick KuÃ¼n, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 GurthrÃ¶ Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Stephan Roux, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Deon Stegmann, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Pedrie Wannenburg.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)