The Vodacom Bulls drew 22-22 with the Blues in Auckland on Friday thanks to a late missed penalty attempt by flyhalf Harry Plummer. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Bulls began the round at third on the South African log. After claiming a draw at Eden Park, and two valuable log points, they are still in the running for the conference title.
The Bulls went into this game without two key Springboks. In a contest shaped by wet conditions, they certainly missed Duane Vermeulen’s strength at the gainline and Handré Pollard’s ability to control the game.
The Bulls’ intent to kick and win territory was patent from the outset. After winning territory, however, they proceeded to spurn scoring chances through poor decision-making and handling.
RG Snyman did exceptionally well to hit the ball up and then throw an offload for Hanro Liebenberg to score. It was a rare highlight for the Bulls in a game strewn with errors.
The Blues hit back to lead 10-8 at half-time. They scored after the break to extend their lead to seven points.
The Bulls responded, particularly at the breakdown. Marco van Staden won some key turnovers, and the visitors used the ball well on the counterattack to make inroads into the defence.
Cornal Hendricks received the ball in space, chipped and regathered to score. A touchline conversion by Manie Libbok levelled the scores.
Akira Ioane’s try was subsequently cancelled out by Libbok’s score in the 76th minute.
The visitors conceded a series of penalties in the dying moments, though. Plummer stepped up to take the shot at goal after the hooter.
The attempt drifted wide, however, and the Bulls managed to escape with a valuable draw.
Blues – Tries: Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Scrafton, Akria Ioane. Conversions: Harry Plummer (2). Penalty: Plummer.
Bulls – Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Hanro Liebenberg, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Libbok (2). Penalty: Libbok.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (cc), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (cc), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons Leni Apisai, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Lua Li, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Tanielu Tele’a.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 André Warner, 22 JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images