07:43 18 March 2017
Rugby: Sunwolves fail to take advantage of red card in loss to Bulls
PRETORIA, March 18, Kyodo
The Sunwolves blew a golden opportunity to pick up their first Super Rugby win of 2017 as they went down 34-21 to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday night.
The hosts were forced to play for half the game with 14 men after former Toyota Verblitz flanker Renaldo Bothma was shown a red card for a high tackle on Ed Quirk.
But the South African side overcame their numerical disadvantage to dominate the second half and pick up their first win of the season.
"We came here to play and we did," said Quirk. "But our execution and a few penalties let us down and we needed to capitalize on that red card."
The first half was a classic example of a smaller side trying to run their bigger opponents off the park.
The Sunwolves -- who lost the corresponding fixture last year 50-3 -- were more than a match for the Bulls in the tight but the hosts had the edge in the loose, forcing the Sunwolves to concede 17 turnovers.
A good start from the Sunwolves was rewarded with a penalty by Hayden Cripps in the third minute.
But the Bulls hit back nine minutes later when Jan Serfontein was handed what has to be deemed a soft try following a handling error by Timothy Lafaele close to the Sunwolves line.
It was not the last such error from the Sunwolves as they struggled at times to retain the plentiful possession that came their way allowing the Bulls to get the edge in the territory stakes.
An exchange of penalties between Handre Pollard and Cripps was then followed by the second try of the game as the Bulls pack pushed Pierre Schoeman over the whitewash following a well executed catch and drive in the 30th minute.
It was the Sunwolves who ended the half stronger, though, with Cripps kicking a third penalty before Kenki Fukuoka showed his tremendous turn of pace to score in the corner after the Bulls had failed to make touch allowing man-of-the-match Shota Emi to launch a counterattack.
With just three points separating the sides at 17-14, the Sunwolves needed to start the second half well.
And they got a boost of sorts when Bothma was given his marching orders within 30 seconds of the restart.
But the inexperience of the visitors then showed, as they were unable to make the most of the gift they were presented.
Jason Jenkins powered over after the Sunwolves were guilty of missing some first-up tackles, Serfontein added a second five-pointer and replacement flyhalf Tian Schoeman kicked a penalty and conversion as the Bulls went 34-14 up.
To their credit, the Sunwolves never stopped, despite the energy-sapping high altitude, and Quirk went over in the 71st minute to highlight just what might have been if they had been able to cut out the handling errors.
"It was a tough game and in the end we just weren't able to match the physicality of the Bulls," said Emi.