Planet Rugby

Bulls rewrite the record books

24th March 2007 07:37

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fourie du preeze

Strong like a Bull: Fourie du Preez gets to grips with Highlander Toby Morland

The Bulls continued rewriting the record and history books on their five-match Australasian tour, when the recorded a deserved 22-13 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

Not only was it the first ever Bulls win against the Highlanders in New Zealand, but more importantly the Bulls became the first South African team to win three matches on an Australasia tour.

It is a victory that saw the Bulls move into third place on the standings, but most importantly it has put them in a handy position to secure home ground advantage in the play-offs.

It wasn't always pretty, in fact it was very predictable.

But against a team of the Highlanders' calibre you are never going to expect anything flash from the Bulls.

While they struggled at first to establish some dominance up front, by the end of the match it was almost one-sided.

They not only dominated the set pieces, repeatedly stealing ball off the Highlanders in the line-outs and putting pressure on at scrum time, but by the end of the match they had dominated territorially so much so that 70 percent of the game was played inside the Highlanders' half.

In fact the scoreline flatters the home team and it has to do with a combination of some very generous refereeing and a lack of concentration by the Bulls.

But once the Bulls got their game going and had a stranglehold on the proceedings, it looked pretty certain they would record an historic victory.

The Highlanders opened the scoring in the second minute, a Nick Evans penalty.

But the Bulls then got into some good field positions and piled on the pressure - earning a number of penalties.

From the first two penalties they turned down the opportunities to kick at goal and opted for line-outs. But the Highlanders easily repelled those drives and in fact effected turnovers.

But the Bulls soon realised the error of their ways and in the 10th minute Hougaard took a shot at goal and levelled the scores.

The game continued much in the same manner for about ten minutes, with the Bulls enjoying the territorial advantage, before Glen Horton found lots of space from a nothing kick by the Bulls and the counter attack by the Highlanders saw his team win a penalty inside the Bulls 22.

Evans slotted it, but Hougaard replied with a penalty three minutes later and as the game approached the half-hour mark the teams were still level at six-all.

The Bulls finally took the lead in the 35th minute, when the Highlanders again conceded a penalty under pressure and Hougaard slotted it from 40 metres out.

They stretched it to six points (12-6) when Highlanders number eight Ezra Taylor was penalised for a swinging arm punch that certainly warrants the attention of the citing officer. It is worth noting at this stage that the same offence earned Bulls centre JP Nel a three-week suspension.

We'll have to wait and see if Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer is correct in his assumption that one set of rules apply to South African teams and another to those from Australasia when it comes to citing and matters disciplinary.

At least the Bulls took a 12-6 lead into the break.

The Highlanders number eight, Taylor, clearly thought he could keep getting away with his cheap shots and 12 minutes into the second half he took another shot at his Bulls counterpart, Anton Leonard. Only this time the match officials thought they had seen enough and he was yellow carded. It still leaves the issue of consistency and citing to be debated.

But Hougaard slotted the penalty and at 15-6 the Bulls started to look comfortable.

They then made their extra number count with the first try of the match in the 59th minute.

It came from a series of forward rushes, most of which looked pretty innocuous. However, after about the 10th rush the Bulls had sucked in enough defenders to spin it wide - with Jaco van der Westhuyzen sauntering over in the corner.

Hougaard landed the conversion and at 22-6 the Bulls looked very comfortable.

The Highlanders then got desperate and desperates teams seem to find extra energy.

This energy was converted into a try in the 72nd minute - scored by scrum-half Jimmy Cowan, who broke blind from a scrum five metres out. Evans' conversion made it 22-13 and still plenty of ground to make up.

But at least there was hope for the home team.

However, the Bulls' defence remained solid as it had been for most of the game and the Highlanders went home with nothing to show for 80 minutes of endeavour.

They did have a late chance to snatch a bonus point, but Evans' penalty attempt drifted wide.

Man of the match: Fourie du Preez was effective behind the scrum, Derick Hougaard's tactical appreciation is what you would have expected and Frikkie Welsh looked busy on defence and attack. But it was in the tight forwards where this game was won. We are rewarding locks Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield for their towering performances with our Man of the Match award.

The scorers:

For the Highlanders:

Try: Cowan

Con: Evans

Pens: Evans 2

For the Bulls:

Try: Van der Westhuyzen

Con: Hougaard

Pens: Hougaard 5

Yellow cards: Ezra Taylor (Highlanders, 52 - foul play, high shot), Victor Matfield (Bulls, 79 - repeated offences, killing the ball)

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Matthew Saunders, 12 Aaron Bancroft , 11 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ezra Taylor, 7 Josh Blackie (c), 6 Craig Newby, 5 James Ryan, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason MacDonald, 1 Clarke Dermody.

Replacements: 16 Anton Oliver, 17 Keith Cameron, 18 Kane Thompson, 19 Alando Soakai, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Callum Bruce, 22 James Wilson

Bulls: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Frikkie Welsh, 12 Wayne Julies, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Anton Leonard, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Jaco Engels, 17 Danie Thiart, 18 Pedrie Wannenburg, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Marius Delport.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Touch judges: James Scholtens (Australia) Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)

Television match official: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Assessor: Kim Eichmann (New Zealand), Dennis Immelman (South Africa)

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