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Willemse strikes twice as Bulls beat Rebels 40-7 to maintain unbeaten record

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PRETORIA, South Africa - The Bulls maintained their unbeaten home record and consigned the Rebels to the Super Rugby wooden spoon as they finished their season with a thumping 40-7 win on Friday.

While an inability to win on the road had already seen the Bulls miss out on a playoff place for the first time in a decade, a seventh home victory allied with a four-try bonus point took them to a ninth-place finish.

Although flyhalf Jack Debreczeni's try midway through the first half kept the Rebels in touch until the break, lock Paul Willemse scored twice as the Bulls ran in all four tries in the second period.

Francois Hougaard and Deon Greyling grabbed the other tries, while young Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard had a flawless evening with the boot as he kicked four penalties and three conversions in another impressive performance.

Defeat left the struggling Rebels with just four wins and 21 points from 16 games at the end of another disappointing season.

The visitors could have challenged further in the first half had Debreczeni matched his opposite number's kicking prowess.

Instead, he missed three kickable penalties as Pollard slotted four, and although the Australian's try in the 24th minute briefly gave the Rebels the lead, it would end up being their only score of the game.

"It's been a bit of a pattern the last five weeks and it's been pretty rough, but we'll be better for it," Rebels captain Scott Fuglistaller said in a television interview.

"We've got a young group and in the next couple of years those sort of experiences will hold us in good stead."

Willemse's yellow card for foul play had opened the door for Debreczeni's try, but he atoned for his misdemeanour with two tries in the first 12 minutes after halftime.

That put the result beyond doubt, and Hougaard widened the gap when he was given space out wide before substitute Greyling sewed up the bonus point three minutes from the end.

"We're a very proud side and this is our home so we don't want to lose here, but next year we'll have to work harder to get those victories away from home because we need to be in the playoffs come the end of the season," Bulls captain Victor Matfield said in a television interview.

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Bulls 40 (Paul Willemse 2 tries, Francois Hougaard, Deon Greyling tries, Handre Pollard 4 penalties, 3 conversions, Jacques-Louis Potgieter conversion) Rebels 7 (Jack Debreczeni 1 try, 1 conversion). HT: 12-7.

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