The Chiefs scored three tries in the final 11 minutes to secure a 34-34 draw against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, reports JON CARDINELLI.
The Bulls had this match won. They went into the final stages of this game leading 31-15. They had dominated for much of the contest and they should have closed this one out.
Credit to the Chiefs for coming back in the dying stages. The defence and composure of the Bulls during this period was woeful, while the execution and the awareness of the Chiefs was excellent.
If not for the three missed kicks by Cruden in the first half, and one missed conversion by Gareth Anscombe in the latter stages, the Chiefs would have won this clash. But then it's hard to criticise either player, as it was Cruden who finished a sweeping counter-attack for the Chiefs in the final play of the game, and Anscombe who nailed the conversion from the tryline.
The scoreline will reflect a draw, but the Chiefs will feel like winners. They scored five tries to earn a bonus point, and showed tremendous ticker to fight back and so nearly snatch a win.
The Bulls will wonder how they blew such a big lead.
Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter scored 19 points for the hosts, and the Bulls pack was in top form. Victor Matfield was influential in last week’s win against the Sharks and a giant in this clash against the defending champions. The Bulls pack fired as a combination to execute some unstoppable rolling mauls, but there’s little doubt that Matfield’s leadership and decision-making at the set-pieces complemented the hosts’ raw power.
When the hosts tightened up, they prospered. The Bulls juggernaut got their execution spot-on in the 30th minute when they set up the maul from a lineout. They were again rewarded in the 45th minute, this time with a penalty try, when they powered all of 20 metres towards the Chiefs tryline.
Ultimately this would cost the Chiefs seven points and lock Matt Symons in the sin bin for attempting to stall the momentum. This was the first turning point.
The Bulls maintained the pressure on the visitors, and an opportunistic try by Bjorn Basson in the 49th minute put them firmly in charge. The accurate boot of Potgieter further extended the hosts’ lead to 31-15, and suddenly the Bulls were within sight of not only a big win, but a four-try bonus point.
Matfield turned down some kickable penalties during this period, but these decisions did not pay off. The Chiefs turned the Bulls over and proceeded to run the length of the field and score through Anscombe. It was a powerful reminder of the threat of the Chiefs.
When the Bulls won a penalty in the 75th minute, Matfield pointed to the posts. Potgieter increased the hosts’ lead to 12, but that buffer was not enough.
The Chiefs proceeded to score two more tries through Symons and Cruden. Anscombe pushed one conversion attempt wide, but was successful with the second. This ensured that the Chiefs levelled the scores and denied the Bulls what would have been a massive victory.
Bulls – Tries: Deon Stegmann, Penalty try, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2). Penalties: Potgieter (5).
Chiefs – Tries: Mils Muliaina, Liam Messam, Gareth Anscombe, Matt Symons, Aaron Cruden. Conversions: Cruden, Anscombe (2). Penalty: Cruden.
Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel vd Merwe, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Morné Mellet.
Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Anton Lienert-Brown, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Ben Afeaki, 19 Michael Fitzgerald, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tim Nanai-Williams.
Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix