Bulls defeat Sunwolves with 14 men in Super Rugby thriller
Northern Bulls of South Africa fared better with 14 men than 15 when defeating Sunwolves of Japan 34-21 on Friday in a lively Super Rugby match in Pretoria.
Leading 17-14 at half-time, the home team were reduced to seven forwards from the opening minute of the second half when flanker Reinaldo Bothma was red-carded.
The Namibia 2015 Rugby World Cup star was sent off by New Zealand referee Jamie Nutbrown for a stiff-arm tackle to the neck of Sunwolves skipper Ed Quirk.
Without Bothma the Bulls scored a further 17 points and conceded only seven to achieve their first win of the season following two away losses in South Africa.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Sunwolves, who debuted in Super Rugby last year, but for the second weekend in a row they showed flashes of brilliance.
Winger Kenki Fukuoka followed up two tries in a seven-point loss at the Central Cheetahs with a superb late first-half score in Pretoria.
Full-back Shota Emi was the architect of the try, evading five Bulls in a dazzling cross-field run, and his overall performance won the man-of-the-match award.
The Tokyo-based outfit were unable, however, to take advantage of their numerical superiority and spent much of the second half on the back foot before rallying.
Quirk scored a try nine minutes from time and replacement forward Liaki Moli seemed set to do likewise only to knock on over the line.
A try count of 4-2 in favour of the South Africans before a small crowd at Loftus Versfeld stadium meant they missed out on an anticipated bonus point.
"We handled playing with 14 men well," said Bulls skipper and fly-half Handre Pollard. "Our replacements made a big impact off the bench."
Quirk said occasional handling errors dashed hopes of a first away victory for Sunwolves in Super Rugby.
"We may not be winning at the moment but we are learning. The repeated hidings we suffered last season are, hopefully, a thing of the past."
Centre Jan Serfontein marked his return after a long injury absence with two tries for the Bulls and prop Pierre Schoeman and lock Jason Jenkins got one.
Pollard kicked three conversions and a penalty and his replacement, Tian Schoeman, slotted a conversion and a penalty.
Fukuoka and Quirk were Sunwolves' try scorers, Jumpei Ogura kicked a penalty and the fly-half he replaced, New Zealander Hayden Cripps, booted three penalties.