- The Bulls got their United Rugby Championship campaign off to a good start when they beat the Lions 31-15 at Ellis Park.
- The Pretoria team were the better side and committed fewer errors on a warm afternoon in Johannesburg.
- The Lions once again faltered in a South African derby and have plenty to think about ahead of their European trip.
At Ellis Park
It was a case of a different season, but the same problems for the Lions as they were beaten 31-15 by the Bulls in their United Rugby Championship (URC) opener at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Lions could be excused for the fact that the game was a season starter, but exhibited the same kind of stage fright that hamstrung them in South African derbies.
RECAP | URC - Lions v Bulls
The Bulls, who showed lesser ring rust, did the right things at the right times to keep the Lions comfortably at bay.
The Bulls, last season's losing finalists, have the comfort of a home game against Edinburgh while the Lions have an away date with Welsh side Ospreys.
The Bulls were deserving of their 15-8 half-time lead as it was earned by some unusually timid rugby from the hosts.
They allowed the Bulls to run at them from the first whistle and when Marcell Coetzee burrowed his way over in the fourth minute, the Lions were shell-shocked.
Jordan Hendrikse's ninth-minute penalty eased the pressure somewhat, but the Bulls' combination of structured and broken rugby kept the Lions' defence guessing.
This was evident in Cornal Hendricks's 23rd-minute try that initially started from the Bulls' try-line, from where it was aided by a brainless run without support by Lions fullback Andries Coetzee.
The Bull expertly used the width of the field to move the Lions' defence into uncomfortable positions and by the time Hendricks crossed over in the corner, there were tight forwards manning the wide channels.
With Chris Smith's 20th-minute penalty added to the scoring equation, the Bulls led 15-3 and the Lions had yet to fire a shot in anger.
The Lions finally got their act together and scored in the 34th minute through Francke Horn from a rolling maul the Lions hardly used in the first half.
They could have and should have been on level terms at half-time, but Hendrikse missed the conversion and a 39th-minute penalty.
The Lions then botched a 40th-minute rolling maul that would have allowed them to breathe easier at the break.
They did start the better of the two sides in the second stanza when Marius Louw waltzed over untouched in the 44th minute, but the Bulls pulled away a bit four minutes later through a Smith penalty.
The game then descended into a morass of a broken play, tactical kicking farces, and handling errors as it then resembled a season-opening game.
The Bulls, who were the better-coached side, committed fewer errors and it showed on the scoreboard.
Smith, who was disappointed to have overcooked a penalty touch finder, drilled a 60th-minute penalty that gave the Bulls a 21-15 buffer.
The Lions, who had bigger early season cobwebs than the Bulls, again displayed their lack of nous in the 63rd minute when they botched another rolling maul.
Referee AJ Jacobs could have and should have penalised the Bulls for being offside, but instead, caned the Lions for not releasing at the ruck.
The Bulls used this getaway card to march downfield and get a penalty that Smith kicked over in the 65th minute to give the visitors a nine-point gap.
The error-strewn nature of the game continued into the last 10 minutes when both sides traded mistakes like toys at a flea market.
The Lions, though, weren't allowed to play rugby in the Bulls' half, something that left them at the mercy of Jacobs' whistle and a smidgen of accuracy the Bulls could muster.
The accuracy didn't come, but with the Bulls being slicker at lineout time and stronger at the scrums, they were better rewarded with Jan-Hendrik Wessels' 73rd-minute try from a rolling maul that ended the game as a contest.
The Lions tried to stay busy to salvage something, but their inaccuracy, a feature of their failures last season, crept in and hampered them severely.
Indeed, the only thing they won was a late brawl that's customary at any SA derby.
Lions: (8) 15
Tries: Francke Horn, Marius Louw
Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse
Bulls: (15) 31
Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Cornal Hendricks, Jan-Hendrik Wessels
Conversions: Chris Smith, Morne Steyn
Penalties: Smith (4)