A Morne Steyn penalty goal in the 79th minute put the hosts in the lead after the Scotsmen came back strong late in the game, and Mark Bennett had the opportunity to win the game for the visitors, but he pushed an injury-time penalty attempt from 53m wide, which would have had Vodacom Bulls fans sighing with relief.
In fact, Bennett didn’t have the best day with the boot and if he was more accurate, Edinburgh may have come away from Loftus Versfeld with a famous win. They outscored the hosts by five tries to four, but Steyn and Chris Smith’s accuracy off the tee was the difference.
The hosts started very well, the slow poison from their power game (and the Pretoria heat) seemingly sapping the energy from Edinburgh.
After the first quarter, the Vodacom Bulls were in command at 15-0, with tries by Johan Grobbelaar and Elrigh Louw underlining the dominance of their pack, while Chris Smith added a conversion to an earlier penalty goal.
They were strong on defence as well, but not long after Louw went over from a lineout move, the Scottish visitors found some rhythm and in less than 10 minutes of managing to hold onto the ball, they had closed the gap to just one point courtesy of two converted tries.
First Charlie Savala – a late flyhalf replacement – went over in the left corner after the visitors finally managed to find some holes in the men from Pretoria’s defence, and nine minutes later Graham did the same on the other side, finding space on the right and using his pace to score under the sticks.
Cornal Hendricks’ try early in the second half extended the Bulls’ lead back to eight points, but it was short-lived as Graham scored his second and third in the next 10 minutes. A Smith penalty goal inbetween meant the hosts still led, by 25-24.
Stravino Jacobs got the hosts’ bonus-point try with 15 minutes to go, but five minutes later Damien Hoyland hit back for Edinburgh and Bennett’s conversion put them in the lead by 31-30, with 10 minutes to go.
Bennett, Steyn and their kicking tees were then thrust into the spotlight, with the home town hero making no mistake on the angle from 48m out, while the Scottish Test player missed twice, breaking Edinburgh hearts on the Highveld.
Vodacom Bulls 33 (15) – Tries: Johan Grobbelaar, Elrigh Louw, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (2), Morne Steyn.
Edinburgh 31 (14) – Tries: Charlie Savala, Darcy Graham (3), Damien Hoyland. Conversions: Mark Bennett (3).