Under-baked Chiefs pip bumbling Bulls
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Chiefs were a far cry from their best but did enough to claim a 28-12 come-from-behind bonus-point victory over the Bulls in Hamilton.
The Bulls evoked memories of their past glory days when they stunned the Chiefs to lead 9-3 at half-time and continued to apply pressure after the resumption. But with 30 minutes to play, Shaun Stevenson received the ball near the 10-metre mark, stepped around his opposite Jamba Ulengo, kicked ahead and won the race for the ball to score in the corner.
It started a three-try, 25-point spree which earned the Chiefs a bonus point to give them 24 out of a possible 25 points from five games.
"Coming off the bye we were eager to start well but it didn't transpire that way. The first 40 was pretty disappointing and when we review it, I think there'll be a few hard truths. But that second 40 was really for the fans.
"They came out to see an exciting brand of footy and I think we produced that in the second half," Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden said.
It was another disappointing finish for the Bulls, who last won in Hamilton in 2010, the same year they last held the Super title. They are now one from five but captain Adriaan Strauss felt they are showing improvement.
"At times we showed some excitement and some intent, but the execution at vital times and pressure moments is not there yet. But we're working on it," he said.
In the first half, the Bulls dominated possession and worked the Chiefs around the ground. But they were unable to cross the line and for all the pressure they applied, their only points came from three Handre Pollard penalties.
Cruden landed one penalty for the Chiefs but with two other potential shots at goal, they opted for the line-out drive and lost the ball on both occasions.
The game turned with Stevenson's try in the 50th minute with Cruden's conversion putting the Chiefs ahead for the first time.
Cruden landed a further two penalties and Pollard one, to push the Chiefs out to a 16-12 lead before the Chiefs stepped up a gear in the last 10 minutes with tries to Damian McKenzie and Atu Moli.
Man of the match: Rudi Paige had a satisfactory outing with a few sniping breaks and Burger Odendaal proved to be a handful in midfield when he had the ball. The Bulls team must be credited for their work rate on defence and Rudolph Snyman was the man keeping the Chiefs' attack in check. Brodie Retallick was his usual self on the park, while Aaron Cruden showed his spark in patches. Shaun Stevenson was having a field day on the wing but our award goes to Damian McKenzie, who got the Chiefs' attacking game going in the second half.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Stevenson, McKenzie, Moli
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 3
For the Bulls:
Pens: Pollard 4
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Solomon Alaimalo.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Nick de Jager, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)