Late blitz sends Bulls top
April 24, 2010
Stephen Hoiles endured a difficult shift against the Waratahs © Getty Images
Sharks 23 - 10 Blues Bulls 51 - 11 Lions Waratahs 19 - 12 Brumbies Highlanders 31 - 33 Hurricanes Force 24 - 16 Crusaders Reds 16 - 13 Stormers Chiefs 25 - 25 Cheetahs
The Bulls returned to the top of the super 14 table with a 51-11 win over local rivals the Lions at Loftus Versfeld.
Having slipped to defeat at the hands of the Reds last weekend, the reigning champions restored a five-point cushion at the top thanks to a late blitz of tries. After leading 12-8 at half-time the men from Pretoria scored five tries in the last 17 minutes to ensure maximum points. Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn bagged a personal haul of 26 points, from a try, five penalties and three conversions.
The only try of the first-half went to the visitors, with the lightning fast Wandie Mjekevu capitalising. Herkie Kruger slotted an early penalty to settle the Lions' nerves but four penalties from Steyn ensured a narrow lead for the Bulls at the break. With the game in the balance the Lions suffered the worst possible start to the second half and conceded after only a minute, Derick Kuun the recipient. Steyn landed the conversion and extended the Bulls' lead with his fifth three-pointer.
Winger Gerhard van den Heever pounced for a quickfire brace just after the hour to take the game away from the Lions but they had to wait for their vital fourth try, Steyn popping up with five minutes left. After that the Lions crumbled and Wynand Olivier and John Mametsa crashed over to put an added sheen on the scoreline.
The Waratahs held their nerve to see off the Brumbies 19-12 in a patchy Aussie derby in Sydney on Saturday. The result keeps the Tahs in the hunt for honours at the end of the season but leaves the Brumbies adrift of the top four.
A cagey first half saw Tahs pivot Daniel Halangahu trade three penalties with his opposite number Matt Giteau, with Brumbies skipper Stephen Hoiles involved in a constant dialogue with referee Steve Walsh over some debatable calls. One such call saw a try for Adam Ashley-Cooper wrongly chalked off for a tackle infringement, infuriating the visitors. Both sides sought to pick off mistakes rather than make the running themselves, leading to a stodgy contest.
After the break the Brumbies dominated territory and looked to turn the screw but were hit on the break by the home side. Kurtley Beale hacked the ball ahead and was narrowly beaten to the bounce by Ashley-Cooper, but the Tahs did not have to wait long for the first try. Berrick Barnes chipped an inch-perfect kick in behind the Brumbies and Lachie Turner pawed the ball in and trotted around under the posts.
The Brumbies responded with a penalty from Giteau, but as the game descended into an endless stream of reset scrums there was little action aside from a barnstorming run by Tahs forward Dave Dennis to write home about.
The Hurricanes kept their Super 14 play-off hopes alive with a narrow 33-31 victory over the Highlanders at Carisbrook.
Their fifth victory in 10 matches did not come easy as the Highlanders, already out of play-off contention, went toe to toe to take two well-earned bonus points from the match. Both sides scored five tries each, with the Hurricanes managing one more conversion as both of their kickers struggled in the variable wind.
The sides produced a feast of tries in the first 40 minutes as they bagged four each. Each time the Hurricanes scored, the Highlanders replied quickly as both sides, making hardly any handling errors, moved the ball wide effectively. Hurricanes flanker Karl Lowe got the scoreboard ticking after just four minutes and five minutes later, Highlanders skipper Jimmy Cowan replied.
Hurricanes lock Michael Paterson was next to cross but the Highlanders levelled 12-12 through No.8 Alando Soakai. Halfback Tyson Keats and fly-half Aaron Cruden were next to score for the Hurricanes, with wing Ben Smith and hooker Jason Rutledge keeping the Highlanders in touch at 26-24 at halftime.
The second half, in contrast, turned into an arm wrestle in which neither side could get the upper hand and the tries dried up as fatigue began to take a toll. Hurricanes loose forward Victor Vito was held up in the 69th minute but the Hurricanes were not to be denied. From the resulting scrum, centre Ma'a Nonu crashed over for a converted try. But the Highlanders were not finished. They grabbed possession with time up on the clock and after pounding at the Hurricanes defence, replacement forward Bronson Murray scored.
The Sharks powered past the Blues 23-10 at Kings Park on Saturday thanks to an excellent display from scrum-half Ruan Pienaar.
The Springbok scored a try, two penalties and a drop-goal to power his side's victory, with Andy Goode and Rory Kockott also chipping in with the boot. Both sides are adrift of the play-off race and the Blues leave Durban empty handed after an indisciplined display.
No.8 Peter Saili scored their only try while fly-half Stephen Brett chipped in with the conversion and a penalty. In what has been another mixed season for the Auckland side they struggled with the Sharks' physicality and were unable to unleash their talented backs under pressure from the home side's aggressive loose trio.
The Western Force upset the title-chasing Crusaders with a 24-16 victory in their clash at the ME Bank Stadium in Perth.
The Force fought back superbly from a 13-0 half-time deficit to avenge a sequence of near misses against the only side they had never beaten in their five-year history. The Force, twice held to 23-23 draws against the Crusaders, held their nerve in the final 10 minutes after Daniel Carter had given the visitors a 16-14 buffer against the run of play.
A 95-metre breakout try completed by impressive blindside Matt Hodgson when the Crusaders looked likely to score before surrendering one of 24 costly turnovers proved decisive. Replacement hooker Nathan Charles surged 85m downfield before he was lowered; Cameron Shepherd loomed in support and when he was scragged metres from the line, Hodgson scooped up a borderline pass before flopping over.
The Crusaders made a deceptive beginning when scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i realised the goal line defence was non-existent in the fourth minute. The Crusaders then made the most of their infrequent raids deep into Force territory through a wonky Fotuali'i dropped goal and a Carter penalty. However, the Crusaders 13-point lead was insufficient as the Force regrouped magnificently with two tries within 10 minutes of the resumption.
It was third time lucky for the Force when another gift three-pointer was spurned for a close-range lineout and drive that ultimately led to hooker Ben Whittaker marginally applying downward pressure. There was no doubt about the Force's next try - again from an attacking lineout rather than a penalty - when prop Pek Cowan proved unstoppable when peeling from a perfectly executed rolling maul.
Elsewhere on Friday, a horror kicking display by Chiefs fly-half Stephen Donald cost his side victory as the Cheetahs snapped a five-game losing streak with a 25-25 draw at Waikato Stadium.
Donald missed all six of his kicks at goal and his replacement Callum Bruce also faltered with two efforts as the Chiefs failed to capitalise on a five-try-to-three performance. The first half developed a repeating pattern where the Chiefs would score a try, Donald would miss his kick and then the Cheetahs would hit straight back. First the Chiefs sucked the Cheetahs to the left side of the field with multiple phases and then Tim Nanai-Williams attacked to the right, making the line break and putting Colin Bourke over in the corner.
The Chiefs struck again in the right hand corner through Dwayne Sweeney, this time after a quick tap from a penalty near the tryline that the Cheetahs were slow to react to. Toby Smith scored a third try for the Chiefs as they dragged defence central and spread it wide once more. The Cheetahs responded yet again, this time with a fantastic lineout drive involving around 10 players that allowed Davon Raubenheimer to drop over the line. Hika Elliot then scored the Chiefs' bonus point try shortly before half time after the Chiefs' own lineout drive, but Donald's miss left them a mere 20-10 ahead.
The Cheetahs capitalised on a string of handling errors by the Chiefs early in the second half, scoring through WP Nel and the brilliant Meyer Bosman to edge ahead 22-20. The Chiefs saw dropped star Kahui come on for the hapless Donald, and they quickly regained the lead through captain Liam Messam after the backs made a long-range break down the left. Olivier landed a penalty from the same spot they should have had one the previous time to even things up with around ten minutes left, and his proved to be the final score.