Planet Rugby

Bulls collapse at home

22nd February 2008 19:49

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The Crusaders came, saw, and conquered. 12-0 adrift after a half hour, the reigning champions produced 50 minutes of perfect rugby to leave the Loftus faithful gaping in disbelief as the Crusaders smashed the Bulls 54-19 in the Super 14 on Friday.

Led by an immaculate performance from trio Richie McCaw, Stephen Brett, and Daniel Carter, who pitched in with 24 points, the visitors sank their hosts scoring seven tries in last year's semi-final rematch.

The impressive performance now leaves Robbie Deans' side with a perfect ten from ten record in the opening two rounds of the competition, following up last week's canter against the Brumbies.

Despite a collective early effort from the proud holders, who were minus injured Bryan Habana for the fixture, the Bulls were completely outclassed with the game conducted at Carter and company's pace after an early home onslaught.

The clash started in a typically intimidating fashion with Derick Hougaard getting inside Kade Poki's head with a hanging kick, which ultimately led to the opening three points.

And the early exchanges continued to favour the Pretoria side with a Blue sheet thrown over their late-starting opponents - the six-time winners making most of their handling errors in the opening ten minutes.

The intent was most certainly there from Fourie du Preez's men, who turned down wide points for an attacking five-metre lineout.

But the Loftus Versfeld crowd were surely not expecting to have things their own way as the Crusaders continued to soak up the hosts' dominance and another three Hougaard points.

And as if on cue, the Kiwis only took a second to flip the momentum as Mose Tuali'i galloped downfield. But more mistakes littered their efforts as it proved to be just a flash in the pan.

Skipper du Preez was as ever a massive presence for the Bulls early on - strolling around the pitch in a typically commanding manner as Hougaard extended his faultless kicking with another two penalties.

Where was the team who demolished the Brumbies in Round One?

The answer came immediately and left the doubters eating their hats! Yes, Carter was involved, with a beautifully delayed pass as he slid across the field, feeding his prodigy Brett with a simple crossing.

And the All Black was on target again to close the scores to 12-10 with five remaining in the half - the canny Crusaders' points typically coming in an effortless style.

That mini-onslaught preceded the score of the night as Carter and Brett combined in midfield with the latter, who slipped through two despairing tacklers, handing it on to McCaw who in turn found Ellis to score.

More visiting dominance followed after the break and it was again the flanker and captain who kicked on the Crusaders' lead with a close-range score.

Matters were compounded for the Bulls thereafter when Deon Stegmann was sent to the sin-bin as Carter's boot kept the scores ticking over.

The swagger then oozed from McCaw's men as the shackles were well and truly taken off!

And the Bulls' faithful subsequently dropped in volume and also numbers with 15 minutes remaining as Poki and debutant Nasi Manu went over to extend the ever-growing lead.

Carter was well in his stride and maybe had even taken a glance over at the touchline before capping his virtuoso performance. The fly-half glided through a gap and instead of stretching for the line, he touched the ball at the foot of the posts for his final contribution before joining McCaw for a well-earned early post-match drink.

With mission accomplished and 49 points on the board, a mistake from the backtracking Scott Hamilton let in JP Nel, but it was not to be a consolation as Leon MacDonald took the Crusaders past the half century for a comprehensive victory.

Man of the match: While Richie McCaw went about his usual immaculate business - scoring one and having a hand in most of the Crusaders' good work, the award has to go to Stephen Brett! The young centre continuously had the ability to straighten lines, finding holes that others would have shut. His combination with Carter, who also played a huge part in the win was a joy to watch.

Moment of the match: Flowing rugby at its best! Yes, a Carter ball that found a striding Brett who had his skipper on hand. Robbie Deans must have been purring as the arrowhead was completed by scrum-half Andrew Ellis for the try of the game.

Villain of the match: Dewald Potgeiter's spear tackle wasn't pleasing on the eye, but other than that nothing to trouble the officials.

The scorers:

For the Bulls:

Try: Nel

Con: Steyn

Pens: Hougaard 4

For the Crusaders:

Tries: Brett, Ellis, McCaw, Poki, Manu, Carter, MacDonald

Cons: Carter 5

Pens: Carter 3

Yellow card: Deon Stegmann (Bulls) 51 mins - slowing down the ball

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 John Mametsa, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Marius Delport, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 James vd Walt, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Jaco Engels, 19 Dewald Potgieter, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Danwel Demas.

Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 Richard McCaw (captain), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.

Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Hamish Gard, 22 Caleb Ralph.

Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)

Touch judges: Stuart Dickinson (Australia) JC Fortuin (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Assessor: Banks Yantolo (South Africa)

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