A 67th-minute try from Julian Savea guided the Hurricanes to a 17-13 win over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett added 12 points with the boot, as the Hurricanes went back-to-back in South Africa for the first time since 2006, the last time they made the Super Rugby final.
For the Bulls, it was a second successive defeat after their humbling against the Stormers last weekend. While there were improvements, with the contributions of Handré Pollard and Jesse Kriel of particular satisfaction, the question marks over Frans Ludeke and the Bulls' decision-making will continue to mount.
The Bulls had made three changes ahead of the match, and although they once again struggled in the scrums, Kriel's performance from fullback was pleasing. The Junior Springbok was dynamic on attack, with his brilliant break setting up a try for Handré Pollard, one of the few hgh points on another disappointing night.
The home side once again made all the running from the outset, taking the game to the visitors in the opening minutes. Unfortunately, their failure to protect the ball at the breakdown – they conceded 19 turnovers during the 80 minutes – allowed the Hurricanes to relieve the pressure.
Barrett put the Hurricanes 6-0 ahead with penalties in the 12th and 19th minutes, before Pollard's first penalty of the night closed the gap. At that stage, it was the Hurricanes who were in the ascendancy, with the Bulls struggling to match their physicality at the gainline.
It took a moment of magic from Kriel to turn the tide, as he brushed off Ben Franks before setting off downfield. Further good work from Lappies Labuschagne moved the Bulls into the red zone, and after a couple more phases from the forwards, Pollard picked a great line and crashed over through the despairing tackles of Conrad Smith and Callum Gibbins.
The Bulls were still struggling in the scrums, though, and after both Trevor Nyakane and Morné Mellet were penalised in close succession, Barrett slotted another penalty to make it a one-point game at the break.
Within minutes of the restart, the Hurricanes were 12-10 ahead. They took the ball through the phases before winning a penalty at the breakdown on the Bulls' 22, which Barrett duly converted.
Pollard, who had earlier hit the upright with a massive 55m penalty attempt, restored the lead with another lengthy attempt on the angle, as Ludeke rung the changes.
It would be the Hurricanes who would strike next, though, after a rare lineout malfunction from the Bulls. Some quick thinking from Savea resulted in the All Blacks wing crashing over through three would-be tacklers.
The Bulls exerted some pressure, but poor technique once again let them down as Grant Hattingh's left hand touched the outline as he went in for what would've been the match-winning try.
Bulls – Try: Handré Pollard. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (2).
Hurricanes – Try: Julian Savea. Penalties: Beauden Barrett (3).
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Jürgen Visser.
Hurricanes – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dan Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Ardie Savea, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 James Marshall, 23 Matt Proctor.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images