Planet Rugby

Bulls edge Crusaders in a classic

07th May 2010 17:29

Share:

Hougaard v Crusaders

Francois Hougaard: Two tries

The Bulls guaranteed themselves a home Super 14 semi-final on Friday with an epic 40-35 win over the Crusaders in a superb game of rugby.

The visitors competed all the way, scoring four tries and grabbing two bonus points that have stuck a huge spanner in the works of semi-final qualification - it is not inconceivable these two could meet again in a fortnight's time.

In a competition which has kept all onlookers and protagonists on the edge of their seat all the way through, this game was another notch upwards to what looks as though it could be the finest Super Rugby finale yet.

That will be little consolation to the Crusaders who played more of the rugby and scored more tries but just could not find a way to neutralise the boot of Morne Steyn, nor realise that the game is not over in Pretoria until minute 81.

You don't mess with the locals up here unless you are very clever or very stupid. Ben Franks found that out after just two minutes, conceding a penalty by lifting Danie Roussouw - the local darling of the evening playing his 100th match who had a birthday the day before - and dumping him onto the ground.

Referee Marius Jonker promptly reversed the penalty against the Bulls on his assistant's - and 40,000 Bulls fans' - advice and Morne Steyn opened the scoring with a 50m penalty.

That didn't staunch the visitors' aggression and they launched several meaningful wide attacks early on. Breathless stuff, which was bound to tell later in the rarified air. It had to count. It did.

From turnover ball it went wide to a pod of forwards on the right, with Ti'i Paulo stepping Rossouw and fending off Victor Matfield before offloading to Brad Thorn for a magnificent 60m try. Carter's touchline conversion was every bit as impressive. Game on!

Steyn knocked a second penalty over from 50m almost nonchalantly as the Crusaders infringed at a scrum after 15 minutes.

The Crusaders replied in the same way they had Steyn's first penalty though. After a busting run by Thorn, Carter - whose form has been subject of scrutiny the past fortnight - rolled back the years with a shimmy and go and deftly-weighted inside pass to Andy Ellis for the second try under the posts.

Rossouw had already headlocked Ellis a few minutes before and at the restart he once again swung a ludicrous arm at Kieran Read, seeing yellow for his efforts. That was after 20 minutes in which the Crusaders had enjoyed three quarters of the possession.

The only Bull not feeling the pressure was Steyn, who launched a 50m drop goal for good measure on 22 minutes. Struggling for defence the Bulls may have been, but they were getting points any time they got over the halfway line.

Sean Maitland was denied a third Crusaders try by a brilliant tackle from Olivier as the visitors once again swept forward, but on 27 minutes he made no mistake, after Zac Guildford had created the extra man in the line and the overlap for Maitland to canter to the corner.

But again, the Bulls landed a sucker punch. Turnover ball from Ben Franks - he really should have given it to Carter - was slipped out to Francois Hougaard and the youngster sped home for a score. 19-14 to the Crusaders after a half hour and the pace of the game had not let up for a moment.

Steyn missed the conversion and a penalty, but landed one more before the break as the Crusaders were pinged at a scrum - an occurrence that was a feature of the first half, much to the visitors' irritation.

But that was nothing compared to their irritation at what happened next, as first Gary Botha then Rossouw slipped tackles before the latter offloaded to Matfield for the run home. It was forward movement eerily similar to that for the Crusaders' first try, a testament to an extraordinary half of rugby.

The second half started a little less frantically, but with no let-up in the action. The Crusaders landed the first blow, with Paulo stretching to dot down under the posts. Carter converted to give his side the lead at 26-24.

The entry of Bakkies Botha for the final 25 minutes was greeted with such hysteria that referee Jonker probably gave the Bulls a penalty just to calm everyone down. He said it was for an infringement by Richie McCaw at a line-out, but neutrals remain sceptical. Steyn landed it to make the score 27-26 in favour of the home side.

Back came the Crusaders, with McCaw's influence growing and growing. Carter dropped a goal - nothing like giving the home side a taste of their own medicine - to give the Crusaders the lead back.

It nearly went straight back to the Bulls, as Gerhard van den Heever powered over the line but Guildford did magnificently to get his body under the ball and prevent the score. Moments later, Steyn did give the Bulls the lead back from the tee, making it 30-29.

As fatigue set in, so the teams became less dynamic. The Bulls made a mess of a couple of goal-line situations they'd normally be expected to score, while the Crusaders just could not find their rhythm at the set piece. With ten minutes to go it made for an evermore cagey affair, balanced precariously and with the next try almost guaranteed victory.

With seven minutes to go, the Bulls were once again down to 14 men, with Gerhard van den Heever sent to the bin for a tip tackle. Carter landed the pressure penalty from a difficult angle. Cometh the hour. 32-30 to the visitors.

Cometh the hour indeed. Not two minutes later, Steyn stepped back and from 40 metres launched a majestic drop goal to give the Bulls the lead back. 33-32 to the Bulls.

Back came the Crusaders with a tap penalty and Bees Roux failed to heed the warnings of referee Jonker to let Thomas Waldrom go in a tackle. Carter landed the game's longest kick, under the most intense pressure, to give the Crusaders the lead at 35-33 with five to go.

The Bulls attacked one more time. They won a scrum ten metres out. Steyn dropped back into the pocket. The scrum was good. The ball came back, Steyn fired it. It was charged down. Game over?

Never. One final attack from the loose ball, Bandise Maku saw a gap on the left. His pop pass was flapped at by a red hand and knocked back into Hougaard's hands and the youngster scurried over for his second. A grandstand finale to a grand game of rugby.

Man of the match: Every single one of them. One of the finest games of all time, never mind this year.

The scorers:

For the Bulls:
Tries: Hougaard 2, Matfield
Cons: Steyn 2
Pens: Steyn 5
Drop goals: Steyn 2

For the Crusaders:
Tries: Thorn, Ellis, Maitland, Paulo
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 2
Drop goal: Carter

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 MornÚ Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthr÷ Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Bakkies Botha, 19 Derick KuŘn, 20 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 21 Stephan Dippenaar, 22 Pedrie Wannenburg.

Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements:16 Dan Perrin, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Tim Bateman, 22 Jared Payne.

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Castres vs BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Preview
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Preview
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Preview
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Preview
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
Thursday , September 4
Otago vs Canterbury19:35
Friday , September 5
Tasman vs Waikato18:05
Northland vs Hawkes Bay20:05
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00