Bulls win thriller, Hurricanes hurt Blues

Morne Steyn was at his best to take the Blue Bulls to a 41-35 victory at the Melbourne Rebels in the Super 15.

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HURRICANES 35-19 BLUES

The despair and anguish on Ma'a Nonu's face typified the Auckland Blues's terrible Super Rugby season on Friday as they crashed to their seventh successive loss when they were beaten 35-19 by the Wellington Hurricanes.

Nonu had missed the tackle on TJ Perenara inside the Hurricanes 22-metre area which led to him standing behind his own goal line 12 seconds later watching Beauden Barrett attempt to convert Andre Taylor's eighth try of the season.

The try gave the Hurricanes a 13-12 lead seven minutes before halftime, a lead they never relinquished as they controlled the second half with tries from Julian Savea, Perenara and Jason Eaton.

The match was supposed to be a homecoming of sorts for Nonu, who played more than 100 games for the Hurricanes before being released last year, and scrumhalf Piri Weepu.

Weepu had joined Nonu at the Blues, rejecting the offer of a contract from the Hurricanes, and the partisan crowd did not let him forget it with boos resounding around Wellington Regional Stadium every time he lined up a shot at goal in the first half.

Weepu, however, gradually silenced the cat calls with four successive kicks, which proved to be all of the visitors' points in the first 40 minutes as they wasted a wealth of possession and field position with poor handling and decision making.

Given the Blues' error rate it was hardly surprising three of the Hurricanes' five tries came from mistakes -- Taylor's was from a turnover and missed tackle while two others resulted from handling errors by Blues winger George Moala.

The first when he dropped a cross kick from Barrett and Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith pounced on the ball early in the first half.

The second was even worse, when he fumbled a speculative grubber kick from Perenara and the ball bounced to replacement prop Reg Goodes, who barged over though the television match official ruled he had been held up in goal.

Perenara, however, scored the bonus point try from the ensuing scrum to give the Hurricanes a 28-12 lead after Barrett had added the conversion.

Benson Stanley scored a late consolation try from long range for the Blues before Hurricanes lock Eaton added his side's fifth in the final minute to complete the scoring.

MELBOURNE REBELS 35-41 BLUE BULLS

Morne Steyn produced another metronomic goalkicking display slotting 16 points with his boot, adding a try and setting up two others as the Bulls overcame a spirited Melbourne Rebels 41-35 in their Super Rugby match on Friday.

Steyn managed five conversions and two penalties, and did not miss a shot at goal, as the Bulls won their fourth successive match.

"It was pretty exciting from the stands, high intensity, good attacking from both sides, maybe not the best defensively from us but good to get the win," Bulls captain Pierre Spies said.

"We needed these points," he added of the victory that propelled them to the top of the South African conference on 42 points, one ahead of the Stormers who have a bye.

The match was one of milestones for the Melbourne side, with Mark Gerrard making his 100th Super rugby appearance, while club captain Stirling Mortlock was making his first of the season from the replacements' bench after he recovered from a long standing calf injury.

It was also their first match since they parted ways with enigmatic flyhalf Danny Cipriani, who has returned to England early. The former England international has signed with Sale for next season.

The first half was helter-skelter as both sides secured a bonus point by scoring four tries each with Melbourne's captain Gareth Delve crashing over after the hooter had sounded to vindicate his decision not to take a penalty shot at goal and ensure the match was evenly poised with the Bulls leading 31-28.

The second period, however, failed to live up to the first as both sides adopted a more conservative, patterned approach for the first 20 minutes before Steyn's deft chip kick ahead was gathered by JJ Engelbrecht to crash over and break the shackles.

Cooper Vuna struck back immediately for the Rebels for his second try, with Kurtley Beale adding his fifth conversion, before Steyn slotted a 72nd minute penalty for the Bulls to give them a 41-35 lead that they held until the final whistle.

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