Joe Pietersen missed a simple last-minute penalty as the Bulls and Sharks drew 16-16 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In an incredibly dramatic finish to the match, Bulls replacement Tian Schoeman kicked a 79th-minute penalty to draw the scores level, but there would be one last golden opportunity for the Sharks.
Marcell Coetzee brilliantly won a penalty at the breakdown, leaving Joe Pietersen with a regulation penalty attempt from virtually in front of the posts, but he almost inexplicably sprayed the kick wide.
The visitors will undoubtedly rue that missed opportunity, but a draw was perhaps a fair result based on the balance of play in a scrappy encounter where momentum swayed one way and then another.
The Sharks came into the clash generally regarded as favourites after making an unbeaten start to the season, but they failed to find any rhythm to their play in the opening stanza. However, they minimised their mistakes after the break, and did enough to scrape their way back into contention.
It's the Bulls that will be most pleased with the end result, though. There has been a sense during the early stages of this season that some pundits have already begun to write the Bulls off after an up and down start to their season, but they came into Friday night’s game clearly with a point to prove.
With heavy rain having fallen at the start of the clash, conditions were difficult for handling, and there were a number of errors that blighted proceedings in the opening exchanges.
However, it was the Bulls who adapted best, and were fully deserving of a 6-3 lead after the opening quarter, with Francois Brummer slotting a penalty and a drop goal, while Pietersen slotted one shot at goal.
In the context of the clash, a massive moment came in the 33rd minute when Brummer got on the outside of centre André Esterhuizen and managed to put fullback Warrick Gelant away for a try that took the hosts out into a 10-point lead.
Importantly for the Sharks, Pietersen superbly slotted a long-distance penalty on the stroke of half-time to bring the visitors back within striking distance, but it was the Bulls who would have gone into the break feeling deservedly chuffed with their first-half efforts.
However, it would be the Sharks who crucially struck first in the second half, with Willie le Roux producing a typical moment of magic as he chipped ahead and then gathered the ball to score, with Pietersen’s conversion suddenly bringing the scores level.
It signified a considerable momentum shift and in the 55th minute Pietersen kicked the Sharks into the lead for the first time as he slotted his third penalty.
However, in an epic finish to the clash, Schoeman showed superb composure to slot a long-distance penalty, while Pietersen failed to do the same when he had one final chance to hand the Durbanites a win.
Bulls – Try: Warrick Gelant. Conversion: Francois Brummer. Penalties: Brummer, Tian Schoeman. Drop goal: Brummer.
Sharks – Try: Willie le Roux. Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalties: Pietersen (3).
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Beast Mtawarira (c).
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Garth April, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images