Bulls

Bulls gore Blues in Loftus thriller

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The Bulls strengthened their play-off hopes with an enthralling 40-19 victory over the Blues in their Super 14 encounter at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday.

The four tries to one victory saw the Bulls move into third place on the standings, with the Blues retaining second place only on points difference.

Rugby must be a fair contest, they keep saying. This was a contest – more of a conflict than a contest as two sides, both desperate for glory, hammered into each other, contesting every scrap of possession, tackling with deadly intent. The Bulls made 128 tackles in the match against the more creative Bulls. The Blues made 65, but it seems that they should have made more for they lost the try count 4-1, and that one was a funny one after the siren.

The Bulls wore blue and ended singing happily. The Blues wore white and in the end were the ones with the blues. After the match Victor Matfield, the Bulls’ captain, was overjoyed and said awesome several times. The Blues’ captain, Troy Flavell was a bit nonplussed, lamenting their recent form in which they have lost three times to South African teams in successive weeks, their comfortable position on the log now wobbling.

The start was not a good one for the Bulls – a penalty at the kick-off and down 3-0 in less than a minute. Two minutes later they lost a turn-over and Howlett kicked ahead to force a penalty for holding on and it was 6-0. From the kick-off Matfield was penalised for playing a man in the air and a penalty at the tackle, the fifth in eight minutes, made the score 9-0. When Bryan Habana was ahead of a kick, Nacewa missed and then there was a penalty for crossing and the Bulls had conceded six penalties before Flavell went off-side. But then they did not concede a penalty for the rest of the half and just three in the second half.

Asked what he said to his men when they were down 9-0, Matfield said: “I told them to stay calm. There are 70 minutes left and we know we are going to score more than 9 points.”

Down 9-0 the Bulls inexorably got on top. How they did it was not obvious except that they were strong at everything – strong in making tackles, strong in taking tackles, strong in contesting the tackle/ruck, strong in the maul. Their strength meant continued pressure, and it told.

When Flavell was off-side the Bulls had a five-metre line-out but the Blues defended well. Then the 48 000 people at Loftus Versfeld had their first chance to hear G’ Korsten singing Liefling (Darling) when Derick Hougaard kicked two penalty goals. 9-6.

Then the Bulls stampeded. G’rthro Steenkamp bullocked forward, Hougaard had two darts, Pierre Spies charged and they were at the posts. Wikus van Heerden got the ball. Tony Woodcock went for him but Van Heerden slipped from his grasp and fell over the line, back first, grounding the ball under the crossbar. Hougaard converted. 13-9. The Bulls were indeed scoring more than nine points.

Steve Devine was struck in the side of the head by a stray Greg Rawlinson boot and was replaced – temporarily – by Moa Taniela who was flown from Auckland during the week to take the place of injured David Gibson.

There was a scrum near touch on the Blues’ left, somewhere near half-way. The scrum was ordered and then the siren went. Taniela fed the scrum,. Keven Mealamu struck the ball and it came out of the tunnel. Fourie du Preez snatched it up and raced down the touch-line away from Taniela. Confronted by Isa Nacewa and George Pisi he popped the ball infield to big Pedrie Wannenburg who had an untrammeled run to the line. Hougaard converted. 20-9 to the Bulls, and that was the half-time score.

The second half was a gripping and intense as the first as pressure flowed each way and every possible advantage was snatched up. But it took 17 minutes for the first points in the half to come and they were from a penalty goal when Gary Botha was penalised at a tackle. 20-12.

When Flavell was off-side at a knock on, Hougaard made it 23-12. It was clear that the Bulls’ first priority was victory, not a bonus point for tries.

There was a line-out on the half-way line, Blues’ ball. Mealamu through deep to Daniel Braid who turned the ball into Tuitupou. The battleship second five-eighth dropped the ball. In a flash Du Preez swooped on it and raced 48 metres to score near the posts. Hougaard converted. 30-12 with 13 minutes to play.

The Bulls dominated those minutes. First Liefling kicked a drop and then came the try of the match.

The Blues were attacking but knocked on some 15 metres from the Bulls line on the Bulls right. Jaco van der Westhuysen snatched up the ball and ran across the field to his left and around Woodcock and down the left. He did a switch with Habana and the speedster went skating free down the middle of the field, past Nacewa, past Williams and on till as he swerved to avoid a third Doug Howlett got him. Tackled, Habana popped the ball up to replacement scrumhalf Heinie Adams who plunged over under the posts, flinging the ball up in delight. Hougaard converted. 40-12 with four minutes to play. 40 points against the Blues who for so long were the 2007 Super 14 trendsetters.

The Blues then got their try. It started with a funny drop-out and had much to do with Ali Williams’s strong running./ AS penalty helped and eventually Flavell scored under the crossbar from a tapped penalty after the final siren. It was the first time the Blues had looked like scoring a try.

Man of the Match: Bryan Habana and Wynand Olivier and Gary Botha and Victor Matfield and Derick Hougaard and Johan Roets and Wikus van Heerden were all excellent but nobody had such an influence on victory as Fourie du Preez in yet another telling performance.

The scorers:

For the Bulls:
Tries: Van Heerden, Wannenburg, Du Preez, Adams
Cons: Hougaard 4
Pens: Hougaard 3
DG: Hougaard

For the Blues:
Try: Flavell
Con: Nacewa
Pens: Nacewa 4

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Jaco Engels, 17 Danie Thiart, 18 Francois van Schouwenburg, 19 Derick Ku’n, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Morn’ Steyn, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen

Blues: 15 George Pisi, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Steve Devine, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Troy Flavell (c), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Derren Whitcombe, 17 Nick White, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Moa Taniela, 21 David Holwell, 22 Anthony Tuitavake.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Bradley Wahl (Australia), Linston Manuels (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Assessor: Paul Ramsay

365 Digital

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