The Chiefs produced a superior second-half performance to claim a 28-12 bonus-point win against the Bulls in Hamilton on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
How often have we seen South African teams challenging – and in some instances dominating – a New Zealand side in the first half, and then running out of gas in the second?
On Saturday, the match in Hamilton followed that frustrating pattern. The Bulls manhandled the Chiefs in the first 50-odd minutes of the contest, but failed to translate that dominance into points.
The Bulls were made to regret their impotent showing as the Chiefs came back strongly in the final 30 minutes. The form New Zealand side scored a total of 25 points in the second stanza, and a late surge ensured that they claimed the try-scoring bonus point.
The Bulls showed greater intent in the first 40 minutes, winning the collisions and breakdowns and forcing the Chiefs to make mistakes. That said, the visitors were equally guilty of making errors on attack, and blew several scoring chances. The half-time score of 9-3 did not reflect the Bulls' dominance.
The Chiefs never panicked. They forced a turnover at the lineout in the 51st minute, and shifted it to Shaun Stevenson. The winger stepped around opposite number Jamba Ulengo as if the latter were a prop. A great kick and chase then resulted in a try that marked the beginning of the Chiefs' fightback.
The Bulls attempted to stay in the contest. Handré Pollard kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit to a single point.
Yet it was evident at that stage that the visitors were starting to tire. The Chiefs started to get the better of the Bulls at the gainline and breakdowns. As a result, the hosts began to lift the tempo and make inroads into the Bulls defence.
Tawera Kerr Barlow produced an inspired grubber kick from a scrum that created an opportunity for Damian McKenzie to score. Atu Moli added another try to the Chiefs' tally to take the hosts three tries clear of the Bulls, and bank the bonus point.
The Bulls have not won in New Zealand since 2013. While they showed some improvement in Hamilton, they will come away from this two-game tour with zero wins or log points.
Chiefs – Tries: Shaun Stevenson, Damian McKenzie, Atu Moli. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalties: Cruden (3).
Bulls – Penalties: Handré Pollard (4).
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Solomon Alaimalo.
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Nick de Jager, 6 Ruan Steenkam, 5 Lood de Jager , 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images