SYDNEY, May 24 (Reuters) - Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani scored a hat-trick of tries as the ACT Brumbies extended their lead at the top of the Australian conference with a 22-10 victory over South African leaders the Bulls in Canberra on Friday.
Kuridrani’s centre partner Irae Simone added his first Super Rugby try as the Brumbies moved to 34 points, giving them a six-point advantage over the Melbourne Rebels (28), who face the lowly but unpredictable Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday.
Hanro Liebenberg scored a try for the visitors when they held a man advantage in the first half with Brumbies flanker Tom Cusack sinbinned after a succession of penalties.
The Bulls, who last week had won their first game outside South Africa in three years, remained on 32 points, the same as Argentina’s Jaguares, who play the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.
The physical encounter was punctuated with big tackles, jarring collisions, turnovers and a succession of penalties issued by referee Jaco Peyper.
While Manie Libbock opened the scoring with an early penalty, Kuridrani grabbed his first try before the Bulls forced a number of indiscretions inside the Brumbies’ 22-metre area.
Peyper finally lost his patience with the home side and sent Cusack to the sinbin, which allowed Leibenberg to score from a pushover scrum, although television replays suggested he had not controlled the ball.
The Bulls then consistently thwarted the Brumbies’ most potent weapon — the rolling maul from an attacking lineout — with the home side changing tactics just before halftime.
The forwards provided quick ball to Joe Powell, whose flat pass was perfectly placed for a rampaging Kuridrani to grab his second try of the game and a 12-10 lead at halftime.
Simone extended the lead when he scored his first Super Rugby try after another flat pass from Powell allowed Christian Lealiifano and Henry Speight to create some space at the advantage line.
Kuridrani completed his hat-trick, and ended the scoring in the 57th minute, when Speight, Powell and Simone combined on a counter-attack to put the big centre over in the corner.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Catherine Evans