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Pollard boots Bulls to victory over Waratahs

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The Bulls beat the Waratahs 28-21 after a hard-fought Super Rugby battle at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.

Both sides scored six tries, but Handré Pollard’s boot was again the difference between his side winning or losing.

The 25-year-old, however, was not at his accurate best, but he still accumulated the critical points that were the difference.

The defeat is the Sydney side’s fourth on the trot against South African opposition, while victory is the Bulls‘ 22nd in 24 contests at home to Australian clubs.

Pote Human’s men survived a late NSW fightback despite being comfortable for long periods of the match.

Kurtley Beale and Curtis Rona crossed after the break to level the game at 21-all after Pollard had missed two second-half penalties.

Super Rugby Video Highlights: Bulls versus Waratahs, Round 12, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

But Simphiwe Matanzima’s 70th-minute score settled the contest in favour of the hosts.

Both teams were guilty of some ordinary defending as the Bulls took a 15-7 first quarter lead.

Warrick Gelant and Duane Vermeulen’s tries sandwiched Nick Phipps’ 12th-minute score.

Pollard opened the scoring with an early penalty before the teams traded blows.

He then added a 57-metre penalty to extend his side’s advantage as the Bulls took a deserved 11-point lead into halftime.

Solid set-piece and defence set the tone

Dylan Sage was a late replacement for Burger Odendaal.

John-Ben Kotze, selected at outside centre, moved inside and Sage came off the bench to the No 13 jersey.

Divan Rossouw took his place the bench for Sage.

The Bulls dominated their opponents in the set-piece, but the ground game was fiercely contested as the two sides shipped turnovers.

The Waratahs had the better opportunities, but strong defending by the former three-time Super Rugby champions kept the Australians at bay.

Pollard’s 8th-minute penalty saw the Bulls score 10 points inside 180 seconds.

The hosts won a turnover after the restart.

Rosko Specman found Pollard with a long pass, the flyhalf sent the ball wide to Kotze, who drew a defender and put Gelant away.

The fullback strolled over untouched; Pollard knocked over the conversion: 10-nil.

Tahs strike with a try of their own to stay in the game

The Waratahs hit back immediately after the restart when Karmichael Hunt won the turnover.

Gelant found himself isolated, Hunt with help from Michael Hooper pilfered the ball and sent it to Ned Hanigan.

The ball was carried forward by Hanigan, who went close after cutting inside, beating some wild tackles.

The burly number eight finally took a tackle and offloaded to Phipps, in support.

The scrumhalf scored under the post. Foley did not miss from in front.

A timely penalty was won by the Bulls’ forwards, which indirectly led to the next try.

The visitors had an attacking five-metre scrum in the right-hand corner.

But Lizo Gqoboka dominated Sekope Kepu, winning a penalty at the first scrum.

Two series’ of plays later, and the Bulls were in.

Vermeulen intercepted Phipps’ bullet-pass from the Tahs’ lineout and raced away to the NSW 22.

Rona sped across and caught the number eight but Vermeulen swatted away Rona like a fly before the big man dotted down for his 10th Super Rugby try.

Human’s men had gone coast-to-coast in the blink of an eye.

The Sydney side was starting to have the better of the play, but they could not get past the blue wall.

Unforced errors did not help, either.

Hunt knocking on close to the goal-line after the Bulls negotiated an attacking lineout and driving maul, was particularly poor.

Pollard missed the conversion attempt, but he did add a long distance penalty from inside his half to extend his side’s lead.

Waratahs fight back

The visitors slowly clawed their way back into the game.

Hooper gave away a penalty at the breakdown after the restart to the game.

Pollard stepped up and landed his third goal to extend his side’s lead to two converted tries.

The New South Wales skipper was harshly penalised by Jaco Peyper at the following ruck.

This time, the Springbok flyhalf missed.

Some good work by Damian Fitzpatrick and Harry Johnson-Holmes at the next ruck, set up an attacking lineout.

The Tahs went forward and won possession to a scrum.

They used a blindside move to get the ball to Beale.

Beale cut inside the cover-defence and danced his way over for his third try of the season. Foley’s conversion reduced the gap.

The momentum had shifted, but both sides kept giving away silly penalties, which offered the other a chance at points.

Pollard missed another penalty before the end of the third quarter after his forwards won another scrum-penalty.

Human’s men were searching, playing inside their opponent’s part of the field.

The game-plan was to force the visitors backwards and hurt them with their pack.

But the Tahs counter-attack from deep was not to be taken lightly.

Several attacks were stifled through handling errors or giving away possession with penalties.

One such counter almost ended with a Rona try after the Bulls’ sloppy handling, inside the opposition’s 22, set the visitors away.

Specman saved the day, forcing Rona to lose the ball into touch.

Tries continued to be scored in bursts

Rona did eventually get his try. The Bulls, after dominating for most of the game, had conceded two tries from first-phase attacks.

Another well-worked move from the scrum saw the flyer beat Cornal Hendricks, on the inside after Dylan Sage was pulled out of position by the opposition’s backs.

Foley levelled.

Tries came like London buses.

The game shifted back in favour of the home team when Matanzima’s angled run – from close range – was no match for the Australian defenders.

Vermeulen won a critical turnover from a New South Wales attacking lineout with only minutes remaining.

One last counter-attack was botched by NSW after Rona could not hold onto a high pass.

It allowed the Bulls to run down the clock and end their two-game losing run versus the Sydney franchise.

Final Score: Bulls 28 (18) Waratahs 21 (7)

Scorers

Bulls
Tries – Gelant, Vermeulen, Matanzima
Pen – Pollard (3)
Con – Pollard (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Waratahs
Tries – Phipps, Beale, Rona
Pen –
Con – Foley (3)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Ref 2: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Christie du Preez

Teams

Bulls

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie Jaco, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.

Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.

Waratahs

15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ned Hanigan, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.

Replacements: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Alex Newsome.

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