Bulls score two tries to one but still lose
The Hurricanes showed grit in their hard-earned 25-20 Super Rugby win over the Bulls at McLean Park, in Napier, on Saturday.
Despite being outscored by two tries to one, the Hurricanes have the boot of ace flyhalf Beauden Barrett to thank for winning this arm-wrestle - as he was flawless in kicking kicked six penalties and a conversion for a personal contribution of 20 points.
The Bulls, who managed to keep it down to just a three-point lead (16-13) in the first half, managed to work their way into a one-point lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.
It was a contentious scrum penalty that allowed the Hurricanes to reclaim the lead and another questionable penalty to seal the deal.
There were quite a few other debatable calls, but the Bulls will be more concerned about the injuries to loose forwards Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann than the referee's inconsistent behaviour.
The Hurricanes, who enjoyed the majority of the possession and territory, forced the Bulls into making more than 100 first-half tackles - the visitors missing 10. While it sounds a lot, it was their scramble defence that most often saved the day.
Having managed to breach the Bulls' defence just once in the first half, with a cross-field kick, the Hurricanes continued to bash at the Bulls with ball in hand after the break.
The Hurricanes, who avoided set-piece play at any cost, still struggled to get past the big wall of camouflaged jerseys in the second half, their high kicks and grubbers also not as effective as the were before the break.
And the Bulls, in turn, started to get their bruising forwards more into the game as they got possession at the right side of the field.
Another problem for the visitors - in the first half - was that they struggled at the restarts, the Hurricanes also beating them in the air there.
The Hurricanes made most of the early play, as they enjoyed territory and possession, but found a big camouflage wall ion front of them.
However, the Bulls were dealt a cruel blow when star flank Deon Stegmann left the field injured after just eight minutes - as it appeared he injured his groin when caught awkwardly in an attempted double tackle on a Hurricanes player.
Soon afterwards the Bulls were exposed at a ruck and Beauden Barrett slotted the resulting penalty - 3-0.
The Hurricanes finally cracked the Bulls' defensive wall in the 17th minute, but it required a sublime cross-field kick from Barrett, with Conrad Smith catching an passing back infield to Andre Taylor, who flopped over for the game's first try. Barrett's conversion made it 10-0.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter pulled three points back for the Bulls after a breakdown offense, but Barrett made it a 10-point game again after a scrum penalty.
Potgieter, from another breakdown offence, closed the gap to seven points again (6-13) just short of the half-hour mark. However, Barrett again stretched the lead ton 10 point, after yet another breakdown penalty.
Then the Bulls repaid the Hurricanes with some of their own medicine - a high bomb from Jacques-Louis Potgieter, with the home team unable to control the ball and Jurgen Visser getting an inside pass from Bjorn Basson to score the five-pointer. The flyhalf, Potgieter, added the conversion - 13-16, which is how it stayed to the break.
Replacement Handré missed a sitter, before Barrett made it 19-13 with just 15 minutes remaining.
However, Pollard made amends for his earlier miss with a sublime break - after the Bulls' maul was sacked - and then added the conversion to give his team the lead for the first time - 20-19, with 12 minutes remaining.
However, Barrett was given an opportunity to reclaim the lead through a scrum penalty with eight minutes remaining and he obliged.
Barrett sealed the win (25-20) with time up on the clock.
Man of the match: Akona Ndungane did a lot of good clean-up work when the Hurricanes put through those pesky little grubber kicks. The Bulls' pack - with Jacques Engelbrecht, Dewald Potgieter, Grant Hattingh, and Jacques du Plessis prominent - tackled like demons and worked very hard in the tight exchanges. Julian Savea were given plenty of opportunities to run, making decent ground without really cracking the defence. Andre Taylor also found a few gaps in the Bulls' defensive wall, while Conrad Smith was prominent on attack and defence. Victor Vito brought plenty of value in his first start of the season. However, our award goes to Hurricanes flank Jack Lam. In the absence of Deon Stegmann, who left the field injured inside the first 10 minutes, Lam had a field day at the breakdown.
For the Hurricanes:
Pens: Barrett 6
For the Bulls:
Tries: Visser, Pollard
Cons: JL Potgieter, Pollard
Pens: JL Potgieter 2
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen/John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger/Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 Marty Banks.
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)