Bulls make it three from three
February 27, 2010
Lelia Masaga breaks through the Force defence © Getty Images
The Bulls made it three wins from three in this year's Super 14 by coming from 16 points down to claim a 48-38 victory over the Waratahs in a thrilling encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.
Francois Hougaard crossed twice for the men from Pretoria, while Stephan Dippenaar, Gerhard van den Heever, Wynand Olivier and Jacques-Louis Potgieter all contributed one try apiece. Morne Steyn, meanwhile, added 18 points with the boot.
The Waratahs, for their part, managed four tries of their own, through Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Mowen, Lachlan Turner and Drew Mitchell, to secure a bonus point but they were left bitterly disappointed at full-time whistle after losing a game that they will feel they should have won.
They certainly couldn't have hoped for a better start. Polota-Nau crossed with just three minutes on the clock after being put clear by Benn Robinson, and the visitors were over again moments later when a superb off-load from Luke Burgess released Mowen, who shrugged off two tackles on his way to the line.
The Bulls finally got off the mark 15 minutes in when Steyn put Hougaard over under the posts but the goal-kicking of Berrick Barnes helped the Waratahs into a 26-10 lead by the half hour. The hosts needed a try and they got one on 33 minutes, Steyn again proving the creator supreme as Dippenaar raced away to score. The former converted and then added a penalty soon after to leave just six points between the two sides at the break.
Within ten minutes of the restart the Bulls were ahead, Steyn slotting over another penalty less than 60 seconds into the second half before Hougaard touched down after a stunning, length-of-the-field attack from the home side.
Turner posted an almost immediate riposte for the Tahs only to see the Bulls reply in kind three minutes later, with Van den Heever this time on hand to finish off another sweeping move. Steyn converted that score and was on hand to add the extras once more ten minutes later after Olivier's touchdown to put the Bulls in complete control.
Mitchell made things interesting when he dived over with just under ten minutes to play but the Bulls, fittingly, had the final say through Potgieter, putting the seal on a dramatic victory which sees them return to the top of the table.
The Chiefs continued their unbeaten start to the season with a bonus-point 37-19 victory over Western Force in Perth on Saturday.
Following their helter-skelter 72-65 victory over the Lions, the Waikato-based side again showed their attacking pedigree but did not have it all their own way against a Force side still coming to terms with a nightmarish injury list.
Hika Elliot scored the only try of the first half and Stpehen Donald knocked over two penalties to put the Chiefs in control, with James O'Connor and Brett Sheehan replying for the home side. Two penalties from O'Connor after the break brought the Force back into contention but the visitors finally found their feet in attack to turn the tide.
Lelia Masaga was the first man to profit, the flying wing outstripping the cover defence to score in the corner after an alert midfield break from Callum Bruce. No.8 Colin Bourke sealed the points by pirouetting out of a ruck to round off a lengthy period of pressure and while Ryan Cross scored a late consolation for the Force, Sevens specialist Tim Nanai-Williams was able to scamper under a tackle in the dying moments to seal the fourth try and a job well done for the Chiefs.
The Blues hung on in a classic wet weather Super 14 match at Ballymore to edge out the Reds 27-18 earlier in the day. The Reds sustained a lengthy period of pressure with the score at 20-18 but couldn't quite breach the Blues' aggressive defence before a late try to Rudi Wulf secured the victory for the visitors.
In contrast to some of the running rugby of recent weeks, the teams were forced by rainy conditions to look for field position over possession early, and the Reds started the stronger with two Quade Cooper penalties adding to a converted try from halfback Will Genia in the first minute after he reacted brilliantly to catch a deflected Stephen Brett clearance kick and race away.
The Blues fought their way back into the contest and a turning point came on 30 minutes when, after sustain pressure on the Reds line, a 75 metre clearance rolled centimetres over the line behind the corner post. That brought play back and Rene Ranger scored with a determined effort in the corner to keep things close at half time.
It was all Blues in the first half of the second period and they capitalised with tries to Anthony Boric and Alby Mathewson, before Cooper inspired the Reds quick short side passing game to get them upfield and into position for Laurie Weeks to score from a rollover. Both kickers had been inaccurate - Brett kicked two from six - and Cooper's missed conversion and subsequent penalty left the Reds two points behind and desperate. When they tried to pass out from inside their own 22 late on the ball was turned over and Wulf took full advantage.
The Highlanders claimed their first win in this year's Super 14 - and their first on the road in just under two years - by defeating the Cheetahs 31-24 in Bloemfontein.
Tries from Kendrick Lynn and Fetuu Vainikol helped the visitors into a 15-9 lead at the interval. South Africa international Heinrich Brussow brought the home side back into it when he crashed over just before the hour, but Michael Hobbs' late touchdown effectively sealed a long overdue win for the Highlanders as Juan Smith's late touchdown came too late to spark a Cheetahs comeback.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring, courtesy of a penalty from Naas Olivier five minutes in, but the Highlanders were soon ahead, with Lynn crossing over under the posts after a neat exchange involving Jason Rutledge and Clint Newland.
Olivier reduced the Cheetahs' arrears with a penalty only to see the Highlanders again reply with a try. This time the hosts only had themselves to blame, Adriaan Strauss turning the ball over in midfield, thus allowing Vainikolo to pick up the pieces and race fully 60 metres to score.
The goal-kicking of Olivier kept the Cheetahs in touch, even though Israel Dagg had an equally good game with the boot, the Highlanders fullback ending with 14 points to his name. And the hosts got themselves right back into the contest when Brussow charged his way over on 56 minutes. Olivier converted but then blew a golden chance to edge his side in front when he saw a subsequent penalty attempt sail wide.
Dagg was not so profligate with his next strike on goal, a 69th-minute penalty attempt, and he extended his side's lead to a commanding 12 points moments later by converting Hobbs touchdown. The Cheetahs hit back through Smith to set up an intriguing finale but the visitors held on quite comfortably to claim a morale-boosting victory.
The Hurricanes established an early lead and never looked back as they claimed a four tries to two win over the Lions. The 33-18 victory was more a controlling one than a crushing one, but they still did enough to claim all the points on offer in an open affair at Westpac Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Two early penalties by 'Canes No. 10 Will Ripia got the hosts on the front foot, and after Michael Paterson made a steal from a Lions line-out, the flanker soon capitalised on his own work to step inside three men and score in the left corner. The Lions have been porous this season but they haven't struggled to score, and they hit back through Derick Minnie soon after.
The 'Canes kicked clear with a try to Piri Weepu on the stroke of half time and although the visitors hit back again through hard-running American import Todd Clever just after the break, Huricanes captain Andrew Hore scored an unlikely solo effort involving a step, a fend and a dummy to make the result safe. David Smith scored the pick of the tries in the 67th minute after a sweeping team move to secure a bonus point and make sure Carlos Spencer's return to New Zealand was an unhappy one.
The Crusaders got their Super 14 campaign back on track with a 35-6 victory over the Sharks in Christchurch on Friday night.
Winger Zac Guildford notched two tries for the hosts with Adam Whitelock and Quentin MacDonald grabbing late scores to ensure Todd Blackadder's side bounced back from their Round 2 defeat to the Reds in fine style. Fly-half Dan Carter weighed in with 15 points with the boot while All Blacks captain Richie McCaw made his season bow in the second half. The defeat was the Sharks' third in a row with scrum-half Rory Kockott kicking their points while new recruit Andy Goode's Super Rugby debut lasted just five minutes and ended with a yellow card.
In the wake of last week's disastrous 41-20 humbling at the hands of the Reds, the Crusaders were more disciplined, smothering their opponents in the physical exchanges. Up 10-6 at half-time and just 16-6 with nine minutes to play, the hosts rocketed clear with late tries to Guildford, replacement centre Whitelock and replacement hooker MacDonald to snare a bonus point. It took that long for the hosts to shake off the handling errors that had earlier frustrated their attempts to build a lead.
The Sharks rarely threatened, relying on two well-struck penalties from more than 50m out by scrum-half Kockott in the first half for their points, both aided by a stiff breeze. They were starved of possession and territory for the most part by a Crusaders side who also welcomed back All Blacks forwards Brad Thorn and Wyatt Crockett. They were at the heart of victory, establishing dominance at scrum time against an all-Springboks front row while all the home forwards were dominant defenders against opponents who were organised but lacking in attacking verve. Wth four matches on the road to follow, the play-offs already appear a distant hope for the Sharks.
The kick-dominated first half was reminiscent of how the Crusaders won numerous games tight last year, squeezing out a narrow lead through Guildford's sharp try on the cutback. They gradually pulled clear through the boot of Carter before Guildford's second arrived when he intercepted a long, loose pass by Riaan Swanepoel. With defenders increasingly falling off tackles and with Sharks reserve fly-half Goode in the sinbin for a high tackle on Carter, Whitelock and MacDonald took full advantage - the latter in just his second Crusaders appearance.
Twin black marks over the evening came with the sight of Crusaders prop Ben Franks and No.8 Thomas Waldrom hobbling off the field at the end of each half. Carter's 15 points saw him move ahead of former New South Wales Waratah Matt Burke to become the third-highest scorer in Super Rugby on 960.
The Crusaders next week host the Blues while the Sharks face the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.
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