Reuters - Sat, 01 May 21:04:00 2010
The Bulls retained their position at the top of the Super 14 table with a 27-19 win over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld.
They head fellow South African side the Stormers by five points with two more rounds before the semi-finals.
The Bulls trailed 9-12 after a scrappy first half with four penalties to the Stormers' English fly-half Andy Goode and three to his opposite number Morne Steyn. Steady rain also detracted from the spectacle in a match played before 50,000 people.
Steyn drew the Bulls level with his fourth penalty in the 58th minute and the Bulls took control of the match in a telling period between the 60th and 70th minutes as they scored their two tries and built up a decisive 27-12 lead.
The Sharks came back with a try of their own in the last five minutes, a fine individual effort by replacement scrumhalf Rory Kockott, but they never looked like beating the Bulls in the second half as their mathematical chances of making the playoffs evaporated.
Centres Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Wynand Olivier (pictured) combined to send fullback Zane Kirchner racing down the left touchline, before he passed inside for Potgieter to score the Bulls' first try.
Seven minutes later the Bulls' rolling maul gave Steyn a penalty opportunity which he took to put the defending champions 22-12 up.
The Bulls' lineout was also a fearsome weapon and, when they had one five metres out, the Sharks expected them to combine it with a rolling maul.
Instead, scrum-half Fourie du Preez kicked the ball across the field, where Kirchner and wings Francois Hougaard and Gerhard van den Heever were waiting. Van den Heever grabbed the try.
Brumbies 32-12 Reds
Prop Ben Alexander scored two tries and his fellow ACT Brumbies forwards shut down the dangerous Queensland Reds combination of Will Genia and Quade Cooper to guide their side to a 32-12 victory in their Super 14 match in Canberra.
The bonus point win kept the Brumbies in the hunt for the semi-finals, moving into sixth place on 32 points, level with the Wellington Hurricanes, who are seventh on points differential.
The New South Wales Waratahs are fifth on 33 points, while the Reds are fourth on 34, the same as the third-placed Canterbury Crusaders.
All have played their games this weekend and none of the three matches in South Africa later on Saturday will affect those positions in the standings.
Scrumhalf Genia and fly-half Cooper have been instrumental in driving the surprising Reds into semi-final contention, but the Brumbies forwards monopolised possession, disrupted the breakdown and aggressively drove the Reds back in the tackle to ensure the Queensland duo were unable to get any forward momentum.
"Their names (Genia and Cooper) were mentioned a lot this week," Brumbies captain Stephen Hoiles (pictured) said. "They have been the form players for the Reds and got them to this point.
"We knew we had to put them under pressure and forced them into a lot more kicking. It was just a massive defensive effort."
The Brumbies stormed to a 14-0 lead courtesy of tries to lock Mark Chisholm and loose-head Alexander, both of which were converted by Matt Giteau.
Queensland spent the majority of the first period hemmed inside their own territory, though Cooper managed to keep his side in it with two penalties to make it 14-6 by the break.
Cooper narrowed the margin with two penalties early in the second half before scrum-half Josh Valentine capitalised on some more patient build-up work that opened a gap close to the ruck to give the Brumbies breathing room.
Alexander added his second try of the game, and sixth of the season, after another sustained build-up and Giteau slotted his second penalty in the last eight minutes to put the victory beyond doubt.
Wellington Hurricanes 33-27 Waikato Chiefs
The Wellington Hurricanes scored two tries in the final 10 minutes to retain a slim chance of reaching the Super 14 semi-finals with a gutsy 33-27 victory over the Waikato Chiefs.
All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu scored a 40-metre try after Hosea Gear had counter-attacked from deep to finally give his side the lead 28-27 with six minutes remaining, while Neemia Tialata crossed after the hooter had sounded to secure a bonus point.
"It showed the team we have been and to come back and get that bonus point try at the end, it might be the most important try of his (Tialata) life," Hurricanes captain Andrew Hore said.
The Hurricanes' performance swung between brilliant and bumbling with first half tries to fullback Cory Jane and Nonu coming after patient and sustained pressure created the gaps needed to burst through.
The home team, however, also dropped passes, failed to commit players at rucks and continuously turned the ball over, and gifted the Chiefs two of their four first half tries.
Chiefs centre Jackson Willison pounced on a dropped pass by Aaron Cruden, who appeared to be looking down field for attacking options instead of at the ball, to score the first try of the match.
Later in the half, a surprised Liam Messam was passed the ball by Wellington's Rodney So'oialo as a defensive scrum twisted.
Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo and fullback Tim Nanai-Williams also crossed for the visitors to give them a 24-15 lead at the break after Callum Bruce had slotted just two conversions.
Cruden, who had kicked a first half conversion and penalty, added his second penalty just after the break before Bruce restored the nine-point lead with his second penalty.
Replacement scrum-half Piri Weepu pulled the Hurricanes back to within six points with a penalty mid way through the half to set the home side up for their late surge.
Cheetahs 36-32 Auckland Blues
The Cheetahs dashed the Auckland Blues' Super 14 semi-final hopes with a 36-32 home victory at the Free State Stadium in South Africa.
The New Zealanders, in 10th spot, needed to win their final three matches to stand any chance of reaching the final four.
Captain Juan Smith opened the scoring for the home side when the flanker side-stepped through the Blues' defence from close range to dive over near the posts. Fly-half Naas Olivier added the extra points.
The Blues responded immediately when slick interplay between centres Benson Stanley and Isaia Toeava allowed the latter to sprint in from 20 metres. Fly-half Stephen Brett, playing his 50th match, levelled the score with the conversion.
Olivier regained the advantage with his second penalty after 15 minutes before winger Jongi Nokwe capitalised on a turnover deep inside Blues territory to score his team's second try and open up an eight-point lead.
Brett narrowed the deficit with a penalty after 25 minutes but Nokwe's wing partner Bjorn Basson crossed unopposed from the restart for the Cheetahs' third try, again converted by Olivier.
Blues' winger Rene Ranger reduced the margin to two points with a try after the teams had turned around with the Cheetahs leading 22-13.
Scrum-half Alby Mathewson gave the visitors the lead for the first and only time with 24 minutes remaining when he dived over underneath the posts from a five-metre scrum.
Their advantage lasted less than a minute when blood replacement Phillip van der Walt crashing over for the Cheetahs' bonus-point try on the hour for centre Meyer Bosman to convert.
Another Cheetahs replacement, Waltie Vermeulen, gave the home side their fifth try with five minutes remaining, a score cancelled out by Anthony Tuitavake's bonus point try for the Blues.
Lions 12-33 Western Force
Former All Blacks fly-half David Hill scored 23 points to help Western Force beat the Lions 33-12 in their own back yard in their Super 14 match in Johannesburg.
Hill scored a try and kicked three conversions and four penalties for the Australian visitors in the only memorable performance of a low-quality match.
It was the 11th consecutive defeat for the Lions who will now finish bottom of the table after another forgettable season.
The first half quickly degenerated into a kicking duel between Hill and his opposite number Herkie Kruger who slotted eight penalties between them before Force right wing Scott Staniforth broke the deadlock with a try near the posts.
Hill scored in the 60th minute and Mark Bartholomeusz added the third six minutes before full time.