Hurricanes deny plucky Bulls

The Hurricanes beat the Bulls 25-20 in what was a tactical arm-wrestle in Napier, reports JON CARDINELLI.

You have to commend the Bulls for fighting back. They trailed the Hurricanes 13-3 in the first half, but through the accurate goal- and tactical-kicking of Jacques-Louis Potgieter they managed to reduce the deficit to three points by the break.

The Bulls reduced the gap despite the loss of flankers Deon Stegmann and Dewald Potgieter, two senior players who were expected to play a key role at the breakdown in this contest. Fighting back to 16-13 was no mean feat, and they may have completed an upset win had they been more clinical in the second stanza.

The Hurricanes looked to be in ominous form in the first quarter, dominating both territory and possession. They tested the Bulls defence early on, and won the battle at the breakdown, scrum and kickoffs.

They also succeeded in fracturing the Bulls defence with a series of grubbers and chips into space. It was via one such kick that they forced the visitors to concede a 5m scrum.

The Bulls had stood up to the Hurricanes’ ball-in-hand approach, and so it was down to flyhalf Beauden Barrett to resort to a kick as a means of confounding the opposition defence. Barrett hit a pin-point cross kick to Cory Jane, who jumped, caught the ball, and offloaded to Andre Taylor in one fluid movement. It was a powerful reminder of the Hurricanes’ magical ability to create and execute.

But somehow the Bulls remained in the contest. Potgieter put up a high ball that was won by Jürgen Visser deep in the Hurricanes’ half. The flyhalf and fullback then combined to score the Bulls’ first try and initiate a shift in momentum.

The Bulls managed to slow the game down in the second half. They lost Potgieter to a knee injury in the 50th minute, and it looked to be a big blow when his replacement, Handré Pollard, sent a simple penalty goal attempt wide.

Pollard would redeem himself later in the half, busting two tackles to score a brilliant individual try. His subsequent conversion steered the Bulls to a 20-19 lead.

Barrett received an opportunity to shoot for goal in the 74th minute, and made no mistake. The hosts lifted their performance at the ruck in the dying stages, and won some important penalties to neutralise the Bulls attack. Barrett added another penalty at the death to take his personal points tally to 20.

The result is a disappointing one for the Bulls, and they will struggle further on this Australasian tour if the injuries to the senior players are revealed to be serious.

Hurricanes – Try: Andre Taylor. Conversions: Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Barrett (6).
Bulls – Tries: Jürgen Visser, Handré Pollard. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Pollard. Penalties: Potgieter (2).

Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 Marty Banks

Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.

Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Jacques-Louis Potgieter was the standout for the visitors. The flyhalf kept the Bulls in touch in the first half through some crucial penalty kicks. He also sparked the Bulls' first try, and was on hand to provide fullback Jürgen Visser with the final pass.

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Jon Cardinelli