Bulls’ win totally deserved

2010-05-03 00:00

THE Bulls and the Stormers are tantalisingly close to securing home semi-finals with two rounds remaining in this year’s Super 14.

The Bulls all but secured another Loftus semi-final with an excellent second-half showing powering them to a 27-19 win over the Sharks.

And down in Cape Town on Friday, the Stormers produced the performance of the weekend in whipping Richie McCaw’s highly fancied Crusaders 42-14.

The Bulls (43) are five points clear at the top of the log, nine clear of the third-placed Crusaders (34) who meet the champions at Loftus on Friday night.

The Stormers (38) have a four-point cushion in the battle for second spot, but they have two tough games over the next fortnight — against first the Sharks in Durban on Saturday and then the Bulls at Newlands in Cape Town.

The two South African sides were helped by results elsewhere, with their strongest overseas challengers coming badly unstuck to provide them with breathing space at the top of the log.

Not only did the third-placed Crusaders lose at Newlands, but the highly regarded, fourth-placed Queensland Reds came badly unstuck in Canberra, losing 32-12 to the Brumbies, while the travelling Waratahs were upset 26-10 by the Highlanders.

The Blues’ faint hopes of a play-off spot were buried in Bloemfontein, where the Juan Smith-inspired Cheetahs scored four tries on their way to a 36-32 win over the Auckland team.

Dick Muir’s Lions, to nobody’s great surprise, were thumped 33-12 by the Western Force in front of their few loyal supporters at Ellis Park.

The Hurricanes did enough to beat the Chiefs 33-27 and they join the Waratahs and Brumbies just out of the top four.

These three teams will be hoping that the Crusaders and Reds drop further points in games over the next fortnight.

Even for the Sharks’ mathematically minded supporters, the Super 14 challenge ended with an eight-point defeat to the Bulls on a wet Saturday night in Pretoria.

The Sharks had a strong first half, leading 12-3 at one stage as flyhalf Andy Goode kicked four superb penalties from long range.

But the Bulls, after trailing 12-9 at the break, took charge in the second half, dominating territory and applying intense pressure until finally the Sharks’ superb defence cracked and two tries in rapid succession settled the contest.

The Bulls’ 17th successive win at Loftus was thoroughly deserved and the traditionalists would have been delighted that the old subdue and penetrate approach is still working a treat.

Morné Steyn kicked his fourth penalty for the Bulls on an hour to level the scores (12-12), but the Sharks, seldom out of their territory in the second half, could not hold on.

An aimless kick down field by Ruan Pienaar and a poor chase enabled the Bulls to counterattack.

Sharks centre Riaan Swanepoel missed just about his first tackle all evening, on Wynand Olivier, and centre Jacques-Louis Potgieter ran clear to score.

Moments later wing Gerhard van den Heever scored the Bulls second try from a clever cross-kick from scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and the Bulls were suddenly leading 27-12, leaving the Sharks with a lot of catching up to do.

Sharks coach John Plumtree, forced to chase the game, threw on his mobile reserves — Craig Burden, Keegan Daniel, Rory Kockott and Ryan Kankowski — but the Bulls were well in charge of the game by the closing quarter.

The bustling Burden did force an opening for scrumhalf Kockott, who ran through strongly to touch down, taking the score to 27-19.

However, the Bulls were still out of reach with the Sharks needing to score twice in the closing few minutes of the game.

 

Saturday’s scores and scorers (home team first):

Bulls 27 Sharks 19

Bulls – Tries: Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Gerhard van den Heever; Conversion: Morné Steyn; Penalties: Steyn (5). The Sharks – Try: Rory Kockott; Conversion: Kockott; Penalties: Andy Goode (4).

Cheetahs 36 Blues 32

Cheetahs – Tries: Juan Smith, Jongi Nokwe, Bjorn Basson, Phillip van der Merwe, Waltie Vermeulen; Conversions: Naas Olivier (2), Meyer Bosman (2); Penalty: Olivier. Blues – Tries: Isaia Toeava, Rene Ranger, Alby Mathewson, Anthony Tuitavake; Conversions: Stephen Brett (3); Penalties: Brett (2).

Lions 12 Force 33

Lions – Penalties: Herkie Kruger (4). Force – Tries: Scott Staniforth, David Hill, Mark Bartholomeusz; Conversions: Hill (3); Penalties: Hill (4).

Hurricanes 33 Chiefs 27

Hurricanes – Tries: Ma`a Nonu (2), Cory Jane, Neemia Tialata; Conversions: Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu; Penalties: Cruden (2), Weepu. Chiefs – Tries: Jackson Willison, Sona Taumalolo, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Messam; Conversions: Callum Bruce (2); Penalty: Bruce

Brumbies 32 Reds 12

Brumbies – Tries: Ben Alexander (2), Mark Chisholm, Josh Valentine; Conversions. Matt Giteau (3); Penalty: Giteau (2). Reds – Penalties: Quade Cooper (4).

Played Friday:

Highlanders 26 Waratahs 10

Stormers 42 Crusaders 14

This week’s fixtures (home team first, times SA):

Friday:

Hurricanes v Reds 9.35 am

Bulls v Crusaders 7.10 pm

Saturday:

Chiefs v Waratahs 9.35 am

Brumbies v Highlanders 11.40 am

Lions v Blues 3 pm

Cheetahs v Force 5.05 pm

Sharks v Stormers 7.10 pm

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