Bulls maintain winning streak
March 12, 2010
Bulls No.9 Fourie du Preez makes a timely pass in Saturday's win over the Highlanders © Getty Images
Francois Hougaard and Pierre Spies both scored a brace of tries as the Bulls maintained their perfect start to the season with a thrilling 50-35 victory over the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls looked set to annihilate their visitors after racking up 21 unanswered points in the opening 13 minutes but the Highlanders proved increasingly competitive as the game wore on and they left Pretoria with a deserved bonus point after scoring five tries, with Israel Dagg helping himself to a hat-trick and Tim Boys and Robert Robinson scoring one try apiece. Ultimately, though, the Kiwis simply paid the price for proving utterly incapable of containing their hosts. Nowhere was this more evident than in the opening quarter.
Gary Botha touched down with less than five minutes on the clock after a sweeping attack from the Bulls and they were over again moments later when Morne Steyn broke the gain-line before off-loading to Spies, who put Hougaard in to score. The Highlanders' rearguard was breached again moments later when Gerhard van den Heever dotted after the most scintillating run from inside his own 22.
Credit to the shell-shocked Highlanders, they refused to be blown away and responded with a try from Dagg on 16 minutes, the fullback racing away to score after pouncing on a loose ball close to halfway.
However, the Bulls had the bonus point in the bag by the 25th minute, Wynand Oliver diving over after Mathew Berquist had failed to deal with an up-and-under. They refused to let up, though, and a fine break from Stephan Dippenaar saw Spies claim his first try of the game right on the half hour.
Dagg dotted again for the Highlanders shortly before the break after being released by Sean Romans but Steyn replied with a penalty with the last kick of the half to put 22 points between the sides.
The Highlanders enjoyed their best spell of the game in the 15 minutes which followed the interval, racking up a third try through Boys only to see their hosts hit back through Hougaard on the hour. That score all but sealed victory for the Bulls but the Highlanders kept battling and they struck again through Robinson. Spies replied for the home side with just four minutes remaining but even then there was still time for the elusive Dagg to complete his hat-trick in the dying seconds.
The Reds showed their confidence with a rampant display in hammering the hapless Force 50-10 in Brisbane on Sunday.
The result leaves John Mitchell's Force rooted to the bottom of the table and yet to register a point while the rejuvenated Reds remain in the early play-off hunt after their third success of the season. A stunning first-half burst from the home side opened up an unassailable 36-3 half-time lead.
Centres Anthony Faingaa and Digby Ioane were on electric form, both collecting first-half braces. Quade Cooper notched 13 points with the boot and created both of Ioane's scores, the first coming following a well judged chip off turnover ball and the second a deft inside pass. Winger Luke Morahan followed up his winning try against the Chiefs with another this week, crossing inbetween Ioane and Faingaa.
The Force briefly rallied after the break with a try from Nick Cummins after Reds' fullback Peter Hynes saw yellow for a professional foul but an intercept try from flanker Scott Higginbotham reasserted the home side's dominance. Higginbotham became the third player to register two tries with moments remaining, sealing an emphatic victory.
The Stormers followed up their rout of the Highlanders with a comfortable 33-13 victory over the Hurricanes at Newlands on Saturday evening.
The hosts had the game wrapped up at half-time, reaching the interval 17 points up after tries from Sireli Naqelevuki, Joe Pietersen and Duane Vermeulen, the Hurricanes' solitary reply a penalty from Willie Ripia.
The Stormers sealed the bonus point when Brok Harris crashed over shortly before the hour mark and eased up significantly in the final quarter, managing just one more try through Jaque Fourie, which was sandwiched in between touchdowns for Hurricanes duo David Smith and Tyson Keats.
The Stormers couldn't have hoped for a better start to the game. Pietersen kicked them into a three-point lead with less than 60 seconds gone after the Hurricanes had been caught offside almost from the kick-off. The home side extended their advantage seven minutes later, Fourie and Pietersen combining to put Naqelevuki through to score.
Ripia got the visitors off the mark with a penalty midway through the first half but the Stormers reasserted their dominance on the half hour when Naqelevuki ripped through the Hurricanes defence before leaving Pietersen with a straightforward finish. The Stormers struck again with the last play of the first half, Vermeulen bounding through to score after an excellent spell of possession from the home side which had been sparked by a rampaging break from Schalk Burger.
The third quarter was all about the Stormers' quest for the bonus point and it ended when Harris touched down after Peter Grant's initial charge-down. The game and the bonus point now in the bag, Allister Coetzee decided to empty his bench for the final quarter and the understandable lack of cohesion in the Stormers' player which followed afforded the Hurricanes a sustained spell of dominance.
David Smith crossed after capitalising on some sloppy play in the scrum from the Stormers. Fourie touched down late on for the Stormers, who still appeared capable of scoring at will, but the Hurricanes had the final say, with Keats nipping in for another consolation scoring after more lax play from the home side.
The Brumbies continued their impressive form by edging out the Sharks 24-22 in an absorbing encounter in Canberra on Saturday.
England's Andy Goode enjoyed a perfect evening with the boot, landing five penalties as well as converting his half-back partner Ruan Pienaar's try just before the interval. However, Goode's flawless goal-kicking was not enough to prevent the Brumbies racking up their fourth win of the campaign, with Matt Giteau's 70th-minute penalty ultimately deciding the game in their favour after an earlier brace of tries from Ben Alexander either side of half time had put the hosts in control.
It was another difficult defeat to take for the Sharks, who were beaten 25-21 by the Waratahs last weekend. They had started well, too, with Goode kicking them into an early 6-0 lead. However, Giteau replied with two penalties of his own to level matters and the Brumbies moved ahead for the first time in the match just after the half hour when Alexander crashed over from close range after a spell of incessant forward pressure.
However, in a see-saw game, it was the Sharks who would go in ahead at the break. Just five minutes after Alexander's touchdown, Pienaar cruised over unchallenged after pouncing on a loose ball some ten metres from the Brumbies line. Goode converted and then nailed a penalty right on the siren to give the Sharks a 16-13 half-time lead.
The Brumbies wrested the initiative back from their visitors, though, shortly after the restart, with Alexander wriggling his way over the whitewash after he and his front row colleagues had decimated their Sharks counterparts in a five-metre scrum. However, Giteau failed to add the extras and that enabled Goode to put the Sharks in front with a penalty on 52 minutes.
Giteau responded in kind just before the hour but Goode posted an almost immediate riposte after Alexander had been pinged for a shoulder charge. It was advantage Sharks as the game moved into its third quarter. However, with just over ten minutes remaining Ryan Kankowski was rather harshly penalised for stepping out of the line too early to try to intercept a cross-field pass and Giteau landed the resulting strike on goal to ultimately win it for the Brumbies.
The weekend's action kicked off on Friday night in Hamilton, where the Crusaders went top after beating the Chiefs in our Game of the Week.
The Waratahs broke all sorts of records and answered all sorts of critics on route to smashing the Lions 73-12 at the Sydney Football Stadium on the same night.
The Waratahs had come under pressure from fans and media for their kick-heavy win over the Sharks last week, but they responded by scoring their most points ever, scoring their most tries ever and sending wing Drew Mitchell over the line a record-equalling four times.
The woeful Lions lacked discipline with and without the ball, coughing up possession at almost every opportunity and missing simple tackles to make life easy for the hosts. The Lions brought their all-out-attack brand of rugby to Sydney and played just as exciting a style as the Waratahs, but the scoreboard revealed those aren't the tactics required on an intercontinental away trip to a team desperate to impress.
Many of the Waratahs' tries came directly from turnovers by the impatient Lions, and many subsequently came from long range, thrilling the fans. Lachie Turner's effort after the final hooter epitomised the night as he raced the full length to score after the Lions lost the ball in their desperate attempt to score a further consolation.
Mitchell's explosive finishing style, which is built on fending, busting tackles and a raw determination to wrestle to the line, was on full display as he bagged a double in each half, including the opener on six minutes. Tonderai Chavhanga responded for the visitors before scores to Dean Mumm, Tom Carter and Turner made safe the result and the bonus point before half time.
Wycliff Palu crossed in the corner after collecting Berrick Barnes' cross-kick to get the second half scoring started, before Mitchell completed his fantastic four. Janse van Rensburg grabbed a consolation for the visitors before Josh Holmes got a quickfire long-range double - the second of which should have been disallowed after Turner clearly stepped on the sideline in the build up. It was no matter though, and Turner's 100-metre finale made sure the crowd was sent home happy this time.
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape
Move over, Castro - from falling off a chair to stepping off the team bus, Scrum Sevens recounts some of the strangest rugby injuries ever
Martin Gillingham on the latest from France and why the national side can learn a thing or two from Top 14 side Bordeaux Begles