Super Rugby: Bulls stop Crusaders; Chiefs, Highlanders win
The Bulls halted some of the Crusaders’ momentum in Super Rugby with a 31-19 win to wrap up round seven and prevent a clean sweep for New Zealand over South African teams on Saturday.
The Bulls were 12-0 up inside 10 minutes at Loftus Versfeld after tries by wing Francois Hougaard and new center Burger Odendaal, who was a late injury replacement.
With All Blacks captain Richie McCaw restored to openside flanker and Dan Carter at flyhalf, the Crusaders came back with a Nemani Nadolo try and a conversion and four penalties by Carter.
A second-half interception try from a Carter pass by Bulls replacement forward Grant Hattingh was the pivotal moment, settling a fierce battle of two teams boasting a host of test players.
Springboks No. 10 Handre Pollard kicked 16 points for the Bulls, with the win lifting the Pretoria-based team to seventh, and just outside the playoff places.
Earlier, New Zealand’s Highlanders and Chiefs both won at home, seeing off South African opposition.
The Highlanders were impressive in a 39-21 win over the Stormers in Dunedin, with wing Waisake Naholo scoring two tries to lead the Highlanders to their fourth win in six matches. A second straight loss dropped former leaders the Stormers out of the top six.
The Hamilton-based Chiefs scored a 37-27, four-try bonus-point home win over the Cheetahs to move to within three points of the first-place Hurricanes in the New Zealand conference. Flyhalf Aaron Cruden added 17 points for the Chiefs with three penalties and four conversions. Former Springboks flanker Heinrich Brussow scored two tries for the Cheetahs.
The Chiefs overcame a 12-2 penalty count against them, two yellow cards, and handling errors in the first 40 minutes to lead 14-13 at halftime.
The defending champion New South Wales Waratahs beat the Auckland-based Blues 23-11, keeping the New Zealand side winless after six matches, and bottom of the standings. The Waratahs trailed 11-7 midway through the second half before two Bernard Foley penalties and a late try to replacement Peter Betham put them out of reach.
Halfback Nick Phipps also crossed for the Waratahs, who will have a bye next weekend before playing 10 games in a row in their title defense.
In the first of two games in South Africa to close out the round, the Sharks overcame a 6-0 halftime deficit, a scarcity of possession, and being forced to make a mountain of tackles to beat Australia’s Western Force 15-9.
Fullback SP Marais scored one try and set up another for wing Lwazi Mvovo to take the Sharks top of the South African conference and third overall behind the unbeaten Hurricanes and the second-place ACT Brumbies.
Chiefs 37 (Sam Cane, Andrew Horrell, Michael Leitch, Liam Messam tries; Aaron Cruden 4 conversions, 3 penalties), Cheetahs 27 (Heinrich Brussow 2, Boom Prinsloo tries; Joe Pietersen 2 conversions, 2 penalties, Willie du Plessis conversion). HT: 14-13.
Highlanders 39 (Waisake Naholo 2, Patrick Osborne, Daniel Pryor, Aaron Smith tries; Lima Sopoaga 4 conversions, penalty, Marty Banks penalty), Stormers 21 (Juan de Jongh 2, Michael Rhodes tries; Kurt Coleman 2 conversions, Demetri Catrakilis conversions). HT: 24-7.
New South Wales 23 (Peter Betham, Nick Phipps tries; Bernard Foley 2 conversions, 3 penalties), Blues 11 (Francis Saili try; Daniel Bowden 2 penalties). HT: 7-6.
Sharks 15 (SP Marais, Lwazi Mvovo tries; Fred Zeilinga conversion, penalty), Western Force 9 (Sias Ebersohn 2 penalties, Luke Burton penalty). HT: 0-6.
Bulls 31 (Francois Hougaard, Burger Odendaal, Grant Hattingh tries; Handre Pollard 2 conversions, 4 penalties), Crusaders 19 (Nemani Nadolo try; Dan Carter conversion, 4 penalties). HT: 18-16.