The Bulls coming off a bye, laid the foundation for a victory with three well-taken first-half tries which the Cheetahs were never able to match despite a strong second-half performance and went down 3-2 in the eventual try-count.
The visiting Cheetahs grabbed the initiative straight from the kick-off and made several attacking runs into the Bulls half. They managed to retain possession as they worked several multi-phase plays out wide but the Bulls defence stood firm.
Their early pressure brought a second-minute reward via a penalty from flyhalf Niel Marais but his opposite number Tiaan Schoeman restored the stalemate six minutes later (3-3).
The Bulls were battling to exit their half mainly as a result of poor handling when they tried to run their way out trouble from deep options. However, once they managed to transfer play to the Cheetahs’ half they were able to breakdown down the defence and scored twice in the space of seven minutes.
The first was a 13th-minute effort by lock RG Snyman and his second-row partner Jason Jenkins was next across the whitewash. Schoeman was on target with one conversion attempt, allowing the Bulls to open up a 12-point lead (15-3).
Both touchdowns were scored during a passage of play when then Cheetahs were down to 14 players after No 8 Paul Schoeman was banished to the sin bin by referee Craig Joubert for cynical play at a time when the Bulls were held up a stride away from the tryline.
Just on the hour mark, the Cheetahs waged a spirited attack deep into the Bulls half and the sortie ended with a Sergeal Petersen try after he played a key role in the build-up work. Marais goaled to reduce the deficit (15-10).
Play had hardly restarted and the Bulls barged over for their third try through wing Jamba Ulengo. The conversion went wide but the Bulls opened a 10-point which only just survived after they defended the Cheetahs’ five-metre line-out two minutes after the halftime hooter had sounded (20-10).
The disappointing aspect of the Cheetahs’ first-half display was the number of turn-overs they conceded as the first half wore on although initially they did well to look after their possession.
The start of the second half was a replica of the first-half start and the Cheetahs’ strong show earned them another Marais penalty four minutes later (20-13).
There was a dramatic change of momentum in the match as the immense power of the Cheetahs pack started to tell and the Bulls were pinned down in their own half. The Cheetahs had no answer to a maul from the back of a Cheetahs line-out and prop Torsten Van Jaarsveld rounded off with an unconverted try, to reduce the fare to a two-pointer (20-18).
Schoeman kept the Bulls in the picture with a 57th-minute penalty (23-18).
The Bulls made the game safe in the final minutes when they kept playing in the Cheetahs’ 22m area as they made a meal of several missed tackles to keep building pressure although they were unable to add to their score.
Scorers: Bulls 23 (20): Tries: RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Jamba Ulengo. Conversion: Tiaan Schoeman. Penalties: Schoeman (2)
Cheetahs 18 (10): Tries: Sergeal Petersen,Torsten Van Jaarsveld. Conversion: Niel Marais. Penalties: Marais (2)
African News Agency
Original source: Bulls record narrow win over Cheetahs