The Bulls moved top of the South African conference on Saturday after they ran six tries past the Reds in a 43-22 victory in Pretoria.
Despite missing the likes of Jake Schatz, James Horwill, Quade Cooper and James O'Connor, the Reds did threaten an upset early in the second-half. But in the end the Bulls were too strong and ran out comfortable winners at Loftus Versfeld.
In a free-scoring first-half that saw four tries carded, it was a fourth minute penalty from Jacques-Louis Potgieter that opened matters.
Three minutes later the opening try of the contest saw wing Francois Hougaard finish off Jesse Kriel's break down the left wing, with the conversion from Potgieter putting the Bulls into a 10-0 advantage. The Reds were desperately looking for a foothold as the Bulls cantered.
Fortunately for the Queensland side they would hit back in the fifteenth minute with a try from Lachie Turner, who collected Nick Frisby's pass off his boot-laces after a clever chip from the fly-half. Turner's conversion attempt was not so flash, however, as it was now 10-5.
The Bulls did not take long to respond on their home patch as a high kick from Kriel, chased by Bjorn Basson, led to number eight Pierre Spies cruising over for the game's third try. That made it 17-5 with the conversion but the confident Bulls were in no mood to hold back.
Hougaard was over again six minutes before the interval with a try that summed up how the Reds' season is going. In possession on halfway, captain James Slipper was stripped of the ball and the Bulls wing would have a clean run to the line as the gap was extended to nineteen.
The second-half brought new hope for a struggling Reds side though as Will Genia scrambled his way under the uprights to give his team-mates a lift. There was now a spring in the Australian outfit's step and things would get even better for them on the 49th minute when Genia was again involved, this time grubbering through for Nick Frisby to ground near the left touchline. Turner's missed conversion meant it was now 24-17.
The Bulls though were duly woken up and would enjoy ten minutes against fourteen men when a rolling maul was pulled down by Adam Thomson. From the resulting phase, prop Marcel van der Merwe was adjudged by the referee and TMO to have scored without the use of double movement.
It was a contentious decision but there was no doubting the Reds response three minutes later when Samu Kerevi burst through before being brought down one metre out. The recycled ball saw replacement lock Marco Kotze pick up and dive over with the scoreline now 29-22 to the Bulls.
But head coach Richard Graham would have been infuriated by his Reds side's defence in the 59th minute as soon after Kotze's score, Bulls centre Burger Odendaal raced through a hole for the try. Replacement fly-half Tian Schoeman's conversion gave the hosts a handy cushion at 36-22.
And the gloss was added in the 68th minute when a powerful break from the in-form Hougaard led to scrum-half Piet van Zyl dummying before going over from close-range to seal a deserved victory that takes the Bulls up to third.
Tries: Hougaard 2, Spies, Van der Merwe, Odendaal, Van Zyl
Con: Potgieter 3, Schoeman 2
Tries: Turner, Genia, Frisby, Kotze
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Callie Visagie ,1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Tom Murday, 21 Adam Korczyk, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Chris Kuridrani.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Pro Legoete (both South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)