Bulls charge up the log

2013-05-20 00:00

THE Bulls climbed to second spot on the Super Rugby log — increasing their lead at the top of the South African conference to six points — with a powerful 35-18 win over the struggling Highlanders at Loftus on Saturday evening.

The Cheetahs also maintained their play-off challenge by upsetting the Reds 27-13 in Bloemfontein.

The Sharks also enjoyed their weekend after breaking their run of defeats with a 23-13 win over the Force in Perth, while the Southern Kings picked up four points by not having a weekend game.

The Stormers were the only South African side to lose at the weekend, going down to the Rebels 21-30 in Melbourne on Friday.

It was the first time the Rebels had beaten a South African side and Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said his team had let down themselves and their supporters.

“It’s really disappointing, it wasn’t a good performance,” admitted Coetzee. “To be honest, it was embarrassing. The players understood the importance of this game and finishing the tour on a high, but yet again we were our own worst enemies.”

The Sharks, by way of a change, were singing from a different hymn sheet after beating the Force, but they travelled back to South Africa yesterday with more injuries ahead of their daunting game against the confident Bulls at King’s Park on Saturday night.

The Bulls are strongly favoured to win the South African conference, but they end their season with local derbies against the Sharks (home and away), Stormers (away), Cheetahs (away) and Kings (home) before the playoffs.

A host of handling errors hampered the Bulls and it was not until the 78th minute that they scored their fourth try for a bonus point. But with a strong pack backed by the boot of Morné Steyn, they were never seriously threatened by the Highlanders.

Television match official Johan Greeff had a busy night, awarding one try to the Bulls off what looked like a forward pass but then denying them another by centre Jan Serfontein that looked perfectly legal.

Two tries by lively scrumhalf Piet van Zyl in the opening quarter, resilient defence and an uncharacteristically untidy showing by the Reds gave the Cheetahs a highly satisfying 27-13 win in Bloemfontein.

The Cheetahs are now in seventh place on the log and have a play-off spot in their sights.

While the Cheetahs spent most of the evening on defence, they took their few scoring chances as new flyhalf Elgar Watts landed six of his seven attempts at goal.

“It felt like we were defending all game but we showed great character,” Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss said. “We didn’t want to give up and our defence was good.”

Reds captain James Horwill said that the many mistakes and a lack of accuracy had cost his side.

“It was a disappointing night for us. We didn’t execute the last pass properly and we were very loose. We didn’t get a chance to build pressure because we were making too many mistakes.”

The Chiefs are back on top of the overall standings after they edged the Hurricanes 17-12 and the Brumbies lost their second successive match. Jake White’s Brumbies went down narrowly 28-22 to the Waratahs in a brutal derby, dropping to third place.

The seven-time champion Crusaders are in a threatening fifth place after they beat the talented Auckland Blues 23-3.

SA’s weekend scores and scorers (home team first):

Cheetahs 27 – Tries: Piet van Zyl (2). Conversion: Elgar Watts. Penalty goals: Watts (5). Reds 13 – Tries: Ben Lucas. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalty goals: Cooper (2).

Bulls 35 – Tries: JJ Engelbrecht, Akona Ndungane, Pierre Spies, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: Morné Steyn (3). Penalty goals: Steyn. Highlanders 18 – Tries: Fumiaki Tanaka, Tamati Ellison. Conversion: Hayden Parker. Penalty goals: Colin Slade (2).

Force 13 – Try: Kyle Godwin. Conversion: Jayden Hayward. Penalty goals: Hayward (2). Sharks 23 – Tries: Keegan Daniel, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalty goals: Lambie (3).

Rebels 30 – Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Hugh Pyle, Penalty try. Conversions: Jason Woodward (3). Penalty goals: Woodward (3). Stormers 21 – Tries: Louis Schreuder, Bryan Habana, Andries Bekker. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3).


Hurricanes 12 — 17 Chiefs

Crusaders 23 — 3 Blues

Waratahs 28 — 22 Brumbies

Bye: Hurricanes

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

Friday: Chiefs v Crusaders — 9.35 am

Rebels v Waratahs — 11.40 am

Saturday: Blues v Brumbies — 9.35 am

Force v Highlanders — 11.40 am

Kings v Cheetahs — 3.00 pm

Stormers v Reds — 5.05 pm

Sharks v Bulls — 7.10 pm.

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