Polokwane - Vodacom Bulls winger Jamba Ulengo pulled off a masterful dive at the end of a pulsating pre-season game to give his team a last-gasp 28-24 win over the Emirates Lions at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
According to the supersport.com website, Ulengo scored barely 30 seconds after the Lions' Ruan Combrinck had crossed the line for a second time for a score that looked like it sent the result in favour of Johan Ackermann's team, and provided a sensational ending to a game that lived up to its hype.
With time up on the clock, the kickoff was taken, won back by the Bulls and sent wide where midfielder Burger Odendaal broke inside and flat-footed the defence, catching a head of steam as he headed towards the tryline.
A magnificent try-saving tackle from Elton Jantjies stopped Odendaal a metre from the line.
However, the heroics were to be for nothing as the Bulls went close, and Ulengo dived at the line to score a try that sparked celebrations from his teammates.
With such a pulsating end to the game it was hard to remember that this is simply a pre-season outing, and not a game that means anything in the larger scheme of things.
But while it ended well, both sides will have more than enough to work on with a fortnight left before the season starts.
While the Lions looked a lot like the more settled outfit, they found the going tough in the second half as the Bulls starved them of possession. They struggled to keep their hands on the ball, while their opposition seemed to grow in confidence.
A marked difference was when Odendaal came on for the Bulls, and linking up with Tian Schoeman he gave the Bulls more purpose and direction, whereas they suffered in the first half from some remarkably poor passing.
The Lions suffered their fair share of handling errors as well, but must be complimented on the superb counter-attack that always looked dangerous, and while it may not always have brought results, certainly showed their intent this season.
The workrate of players like Warren Whiteley, Lionel Mapoe, Franco Mostert and others was exceptional as they covered the field with ease, but the player who stood out the most for the Lions was Warwick Tecklenburg, who seemed to be everywhere.
The Bulls will be happy with their backline, who looked dangerous, but when it comes to the No 10 jersey, on this performance Schoeman shaded an indifferent Francois Brummer.
It was the Lions who fired early as they scored first and shaded the first half easily.
Whiteley scored their first try from the back of the scrum, picking up from a wheeling set-piece to power his way over from close range.
But it was Combrinck's inside jink that beat Adriaan Strauss and the missed tackle saw the winger run through to put his side 12-0 up.
The Bulls struck back on the brink of halftime through Bok midfielder Jesse Kriel who came back inside and went over despite having three defenders on his back.
The Lions started the second half excellently, crafting a counter attack from inside their own 22 to send it wide to Combrinck, who stormed down the wing before sending the ball inside to former Bull Rohan Janse van Rensburg to score.
At 19-7 the Lions were threatening to run away with it, but a host of changes swung the ball back in the Bulls' favour as they started to protect it for long periods of time.
Still though, at least four attacks were snubbed either by poor passing or knock-ons close to the line, but the momentum was clearly going their way.
The first blow was struck by Grant Hattingh, who went over from close range with Pierre Schoeman on his shoulder.
Ten minutes from time the Bulls crafted a beautiful move, with Tian Schoeman popping the perfect inside pass to Jade Stighling to scythe his way through the defence. Stughling made it close but passed to Odendaal to complete an excellent try.
But if that was a good try, the Lions equalled it minutes later with a pearler, with the ball quickly passing between seven pairs of hands to outstrip the Bulls defence, leaving Combrinck in space. The winger didn't disappoint as he went over in the corner to give the Lions the lead with seconds left on the clock.
The conversion was taken seconds before the hooter, and the restart was allowed. Ulengo then claimed the win for the Bulls that they will celebrate, with the few thousand fans in the Limpopo capital being well-entertained.Scorers:
Vodacom Bulls 28 (7). Tries: Jesse Kriel, Grant Hattingh, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2), Tian Schoeman (2)
Emirates Lions 24 (12). Tries: Warren Whiteley, Ruan Combrinck (2), Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2).