Super Rugby: Chiefs draw 34-34 at Bulls
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Two-time Super Rugby defending champions the Chiefs scored three tries in the last 10 minutes and kicked a touchline conversion after the hooter for a thrilling 34-34 draw at the Bulls on Saturday.
The Chiefs scored five tries in all, and led 12-3 early before surrendering control of the game and trailing the Bulls by 16 points at 31-15 heading to the final 10 minutes.
Backline replacement Gareth Anscombe then rounded off a brilliant 70-meter try for the Chiefs in the 70th minute, lock Matt Symons burrowed over to score off a clever lineout move in the 77th and captain Aaron Cruden forced the ball onto the line in the corner with around 10 seconds to play after another long-range counter from the New Zealand team.
Anscombe kicked the conversion from the left touchline to silence Loftus Versfeld and push the Chiefs up to third overall behind the Sharks and ACT Brumbies, and top of the New Zealand conference.
The Bulls had tries from flanker Deon Stegmann, wing Bjorn Basson and a penalty try, and controlled the territory, scrums and lineouts before slipping up against the Chief’s elusive counter-attacking. The draw halted the Bulls’ streak of three straight wins.
The Hamilton-based Chiefs showed their dangerous threat in open play when former All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina scored the first try in the 14th after an inside pass from Cruden. Center Andrew Horrell made a searing break five minutes later and flanker Liam Messam strode over for a quick-fire double.
The Chiefs appeared to have quickly shrugged off a surprise loss to the Western Force in Australia last weekend.
But under the guidance of veteran captain Victor Matfield, the Bulls claimed control of the middle stages of the game through their dominant scrum and lineout and the Chiefs scored only three points between the 19th and 70th minutes.
Stegmann was at the back of a rolling maul for the Bulls’ opener in the 30th. Referee Craig Joubert awarded a penalty try in the 45th when another rumbling Bulls maul was dragged down by the Chiefs just before the line. Symons was yellow-carded.
The rapid Basson chipped ahead and pounced on a fumble by Messam on the tryline to score the Bulls’ third in the 49th. Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked 19 points.
Yet the Chiefs still found a way back, first when Anscombe finished off an attack the visitors started near their own tryline. The ball was put through countless pairs of hands before replacement Anscombe stepped inside and beat the final two defenders. Symons came back from the sin bin to score his first Super Rugby try with three minutes to go. Cruden followed up a last-gasp attack that went through nearly 15 phases and dived desperately for the corner, slamming the ball down on the line inches in from touch.
Anscombe’s conversion sailed over from way out wide to lock the scores and stun Loftus, which was deathly quiet except for delighted howls from the Chiefs players.
Bulls 34 (Deon Stegmann, Bjorn Basson, penalty tries; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 2 conversions, 5 penalties), Chiefs 34 (Mils Muliaina, Liam Messam, Gareth Anscombe, Matt Symons, Aaron Cruden tries; Anscombe 2 conversions, Cruden conversion, penalty). HT: 14-15.