Bulls v Edinburgh: Steyn dashes Scots’ hopes at the death

Darcy Graham grabs a hat-trick but Darcy Graham but visitors come up just short

Henry Immelman
Mark Bennett and Henry Immelman were Edinburgh's stand-in place-kickers against the Bulls. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Bulls 33

Edinburgh 31

THE cruellest of defeats saw Edinburgh leave Loftus Versfeld with only two losing bonus points last night after Henry Immelman missed a long-range penalty with the last kick of the match. Darcy Graham scored a hat-trick as the visitors fought back from a slow start, and Charlie Savala and Damien Hoyland also touched down as they won the try count 5-4, but in the end the player who made the difference was  Bulls veteran Morne Steyn.

With under two minutes left to play, Steyn, now 38, succeeded in doing what Immelman failed to emulate around 90 seconds later, knocking over a penalty from around 45 metres to put his team two points in front. Immelman was also off target with another penalty attempt a few minutes before Steyn’s score, while Mark Bennett missed a couple of conversion attempts.

Understandably, however, given the spirit his team had shown to recover from an early 15-0 deficit, Mike Blair insisted he would in no way blame either Immelman or Bennett  for the result. The head coach pointed out that the team’s three principal goal-kickers – Emiliano Boffelli, Blair Kinghorn and Jaco van der Walt – were all unavailable. Boffelli is on international duty with Argentina, Kinghorn was ruled out of the game yesterday morning by a stomach bug, and Van der Walt, his replacement, lasted a little more than 10 minutes before a head injury ended his involvement. 

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“We were looking at that game exactly the same as if that kick went over or didn’t,” Blair said. “Henry is not a front-line kicker but he stood up and wanted to do that. It was a difficult kick, he didn’t make it, and of course he is distraught about it. The game was lost in that last ten minutes and not with that kick. 

“I’m disappointed not to come away with the win, but proud of the effort the boys put in. In the first quarter of the game I didn’t think we were quite there mentally. On the positive side, the way we came back and the guts, courage and skill we brought to the game was absolutely outstanding.” 

Henry Pyrgos and Immelman both attempted drop-goals in the opening minutes, but the former’s effort came back off the bar and Immelman’s was wide. When WP Nel was penalised at the first scrum, however, Bulls fly-half Chris Smith was on target with the kick from just inside the Edinburgh half.

The Bulls steadily imposed themselves after that opening score, and extended their lead when Johan Grobbelaar crossed the line from a tap penalty and Smith converted. The penalty count against the Scots side continued to rise, and Grant Gilchrist paid the price for the repeated offending when he was sent to the sin bin. Another penalty award then allowed the Bulls to emulate their first try from a tap and go: No 8 Elrick Louw finished it off this time, rolling over and grounding despite a strong attempt by Pierre Schoeman to hold him up.

Smith’s missed conversion was just about the first thing that had gone right for Edinburgh, but they hit back when Savala grounded in the left corner after an excellent break by James Lang. Mark Bennett converted.

That  score injected a lot of confidence into Edinburgh, and they got a second try when Darcy Graham outflanked a ponderous defence on the right flank, with Bennett, who had provided the scoring pass for the winger, again adding the two points. 


Given Blair’s team had been 15 points and a man down, that was a more than acceptable situation in which to begin the second half, even if they did lose Gilchrist to a cut hand in the last minute before the break. But a lot of that good work was undone in the opening minute of the second half when, after Immelman had done extremely well to hold up Ruan Nortje, the Bulls recycled right for Cornal Hendricks to finish off. 

Smith added the two points, but Edinburgh hit back in unexpected fashion. A long-range penalty by Bennett came back off an upright, and Graham got to the loose ball, hacked on, then grounded for his second try of the afternoon. Bennett missed the conversion.

Smith made no such mistake minutes later with a penalty, and then Graham struck again. An improvised pass off the deck by Bill Mata found Immelman at full stretch, and the full-back set his winger on a straight run to the line to complete his hat-trick. The missed conversion left Edinburgh a point behind.

Inside the final quarter, the Bulls replacements began to make inroads into the Edinburgh defence, and eventually Embrose Papier, provided a perfectly-timed scoring pass to winger Stravino Jacobs. The conversion attempt was missed, leaving the lead at six points.

If the Bulls thought that would be enough, Edinburgh had other ideas. Ten minutes from time, a move down the line ended with Damien Hoyland scoring his team’s fifth try. This time Bennett did convert to put his team ahead for the first time in the contest.

With five minutes to play Immelman had a chance to extend the lead to four points, but his penalty attempt was wide by some margin. That allowed Steyn, newly arisen from the bench, to put the Bulls back in front when he knocked over a penalty from the 10m line. 

A high tackle by Jacobs on Bennett gave Immelman one last chance, but what his kick had in power it lacked in accuracy. Having just lost out to last season’s runners-up, Edinburgh next face the champions, the Stormers, in Cape Town on Saturday. Kinghorn should be fit, but Van der Walt, Bennett and Gilchrist are doubtful because of injury.

“It was definitely a disappointing start, the first quarter of the game,” Blair added later. “I didn’t think we were quite there mentally. That gave the Bulls a couple of easy ins into the game by not being switched on enough. 

“On the positive side, the way we came back from that, and the guts, courage and skill we brought to the game, was absolutely outstanding. There was too much of a cushion at the start, but we got ourselves back into the position to win the game. It was an outstanding effort.”


Teams –

Bulls: J Goosen; C Hendricks (S Gans 54), L Mapoe, D Kriel, S Jacobs; C Smith (M Steyn 70), Z Burger (E Papier 57); G Steenekamp (S Matanzima 62), J Grobbelaar (J-H Wessels 66), M Smith (F Klopper 61), W Steenkamp, R Nortje (J Swanepoel 57), M Coetzee (capt), R Vermaak (M van Staden 54), E Louw. 

Edinburgh: H Immelman; D Graham, M Bennett, J Lang, D Hoyland; J van der Walt (C Savala 11), H Pyrgos (B Vellacott 66); P Schoeman (B Venter 54), D Cherry (S McInally 56), W Nel (L de Bruin 58), S Skinner, G Gilchrist (M Sykes 40-55),  J Ritchie (capt), L Crosbie (H Watson 18-28, 41), V Mata (M Sykes 70). 

Referee: A Jones (Wales).


Scorers –

Bulls: Tries: Grobbelaar, Louw, Hendricks, Jacobs; Cons: C Smith 2; Pens: C Smith 2, Steyn. 

Edinburgh: Tries: Savala, Graham 3, Hoyland; Cons: Bennett 3.

Scoring sequence (Bulls first): 3-0; 8-0; 10-0; 15-0; 15-5; 15-7; 15-12; 15-14 (h-t) 20-14; 22-14; 22-19; 25-19; 25-24; 30-24; 30-29; 30-31; 33-31.


Yellow card –

Edinburgh: Gilchrist

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About Stuart Bathgate 1412 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. I’m confused why people are saying this was a good performance by Edinburgh, we had a pack full of internationals and got beaten by a very young Bulls team who were missing their springboks and we conceded 33 points and gave away countless breakdown penalties.

    It was a very entertaining game and the attacking play/never say die attitude was impressive in aspects. We need to improve the defence and be a lot more reliable with goal kicking.

    A lot more needed from this Edinburgh team to be a league contender/European cup knock-out competitor, i do believe Edinburgh can get their this season.

    • how many Books were they missing – 2 I think. with Elryk Louw released to play. So not much impact. Stormers have more in the Boks squad so should help us next week. But do agree we have a very strong pack and so should compete with the best. Time will tell but we should be serious contenders this season.

    • Agree. Edinburgh have a team to be competitive against anyone. They were. But the scoreboard shows we only managed to lead for about 8 mins, this was a chance missed and it will take some added focus to win this week with Stormers possibly aided by a few more Boks being released to play.

    • Think that is unfairly pessimistic tbh. Who else were Bulls missing except for Moodie? They were the URC runners up after having handily dispatched Leinster in Dublin. They are a serious rugby team. The number of Internationals is a bit of a red herring. It is much easier to be capped in Scotland – around half of all our professional players end up capped, whereas SA have possibly the best depth of any country in the world, with only really NZ and France in a similar position.

      This is exactly the kind of form that can make Edinburgh contenders. 2 BPs at one of the hardest away venues in the league. Yes, they failed to get the win, we’re not there yet, but this was a step forward I think and a good way to start the season.

  2. Not to mention the two forward passes which weren’t picked up by officials in the lead up to this piece of play

  3. Very good performance but still the curse of many Sottish teams – slow start and inability to close out at thee end – two daft penalties in seconds of one another let them back in.

  4. Really a game we should have won with a great performance. Apart from the very sloppy start where we gave them a 15 point lead we totally controlled the game thereafter and unfortunately the 2 entries they had into our 22 in the 2nd half both resulted in tries. They are a dominant team on their home turf but we really played most of the rugby with 5 great tries – OK one a bit fortunate. You can say we didn’t win so let them of the hook but we should take great confidence from being able to match the Bulls away from home. No question with a better kicker we would have won the game. We only had 3 Bennet conversions and no penalties. With Boffeli we wouldn’t even have needed the last minute penalty – wed have been ahead by then. Many great performances with Bennett. Lang and Ritchie all outstanding.

    Worry for next week will be the injuries and also our 2nd choice props didn’t look so hot. Stormers have both the Boys props playing yesterday so presume they won’t play?

  5. After a slow start Edinburgh were simply superb and a Boffelli kick (he’d have got that) away from winning. So many impressive performances across the park and Darcy looks razor sharp. We wobbled one of the big 2 SA teams and the team should take so much from that performance.

  6. Really good team effort. With Boffelli playing we’d have taken 2 further penalties and 2 conversions. This should be a lesson to Townsend Scotland must have a recognised kicker on the park. Great job by the forwards and Darcy is looking World Class.
    Good to see both teams doing well, though Scotstoun has obviously adopted a beer prevention scheme – small crowd and the longest beer queues ever! What happened to all the previous bars?

  7. Well, credit to the boys there, for me we deserved to win that game and with a first line kicker available, I think we would have.

    A cracking game anyway, and you have to say, with perfromances like that away from home, you have to hope we’re play off contenders, all be it, that looks like a very tall order.

    Great to see Glasgow recover from a first round hiccough last night as well.

    That seemed to me to be one of the best performances from Savala, certainly I didn’t see any mistakes and a few good moves?

    Seemed to be a few very dodgy ref decisions. Can’t be bothered to look back and confirm that, but would be interested in others views?

    The Stormers will be worried now, hopefully no injuries to weaken the team and it’s back to sea level.

  8. Now…. I’m no expert on the new(ish) rules, but if you cross the line with the ball, and get held up, are you really still allowed to place the ball back for play to continue or should that have been a goal line drop-out for Edinburgh rather than the Bulls try after HT? Edinburgh played well, could be a real force this year.

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