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Pollard kicks Bulls to rare away triumph over Lions

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Johannesburg (AFP)

Captain and fly-half Handre Pollard kicked 20 points as the Bulls beat the Lions 30-12 Saturday -- their first Super Rugby victory in Johannesburg since 2012.

Pollard, deputising as skipper for injured lock Lood de Jager, slotted six penalties and a conversion from eight shots at goal at Ellis Park.

It took his season tally to 52 points from three matches, 17 more than second-place Hayden Parker from Japanese outfit the Sunwolves.

Pollard kicked the Bulls into the lead on 14 minutes, they led 14-0 at the half and sealed victory five minutes from time when full-back Warrick Gelant scored a try.

Victory lifted the Bulls three places to fourth, three points behind leaders and defending champions the Crusaders from New Zealand.

The Lions, runners-up in the past three Super Rugby finals, slid two places to 10th after a second successive loss in the southern hemisphere franchise championship.

While Eli Snyman starred as a replacement for De Jager, the Lions struggled without injured captain and No. 8 Warren Whiteley, who was replaced by hooker Malcolm Marx.

"It was a great team effort," said Pollard, the likeliest Springboks playmaker at the 2019 World Cup in Japan this September.

"I did not expect to win by such a wide margin given the Lions' record against us at Ellis Park in recent seasons.

"Everyone contributed and I want to give special praise to Eli. He had big shoes to fill as a replacement for Lood and lasted the full 80 minutes."

Marx, a finalist for the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year award won by Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton, led the Lions even though fly-half Elton Jantjies is the official vice-captain.

"We rarely got out of our half in the first half and when we did, we made mistakes. Obviously, we missed Warren, who is a great captain and leader."

Duane Vermeulen was the Bulls' other try-scorer while props Carlu Sadie and Dylan Smith scored a try each for the Lions with Jantjies converting one.

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