Allianz Stadium, Sydney
A last-gasp try from Werner Kruger secured victory for the Bulls over the HSBC Waratahs at Allianz Stadium tonight.
Led by returning captain Rocky Elsom, the HSBC Waratahs had the advantage at the break and put in a performance that kept the vocal crowd on the edge of its seat for the entirety of a physical encounter. Tries from centre Rob Horne and wing Atieli Pakalani ensured the home side had the advantage going into the final stages but a 78th minute try from Kruger maintained the Bulls’ recent dominance and forced NSW to settle for a losing bonus point.
Head Coach Michael Foley admitted his side, who dominated up front and had the lion’s share of possession and territory, were understandably very disappointed. “I thought for large parts of that game we did exactly what we wanted do to and had good control against a side that was obviously very fired up about their performance last week.
“There have been a number of games that have been particularly close and what it has come down to is that there’s been a decision made or an error made that’s cost us.”
Foley though paid tribute to his team’s effort, which was evident throughout the match. “It’s fantastic that the team has met so many challenges and put itself in a position to beat very good sides, like the Bulls.
“But for us to take that next step, we’ve just got to control those little moments that we can control.”
The HSBC Waratahs will tomorrow travel to South Africa knowing that the season doesn’t get any easier. “All that matters for us now is to recover from the disappointment and to prepare well for next week.
“And when we get into next week’s game, make sure we’ve dealt with the details in preparation that allows us to control the things that we can control.”
It was almost a perfect start for the home side, when they made an attempt at the try line in the opening exchanges. Although the attempt from Berrick Barnes in the left corner was short, the HSBC Waratahs earned a penalty for their efforts, scrum half Sarel Pretorius taking a quick tap to keep the pressure up. Despite maintaining possession for 12 phases, the Bulls eventually forced an error, earning a penalty and the chance to clear their lines.
Despite going three points down to the ever-reliable boot of Morne Steyn after 10 minutes, the HSBC Waratahs levelled on 13 minutes, when Barnes slotted a penalty after flanker Johannes Stegmann was penalised for not rolling away.
There was more good news three minutes later when the home side extended their lead to seven points, courtesy of a fantastic 30m break from centre Rob Horne, who crossed under the posts after collecting a cut out pass from Barnes off the back of a lineout.
Barnes’ conversion took the scores to 10-3 after the first quarter but the sin binning of Dean Mumm on 23 minutes gifted the Bulls an opportunity just inside the NSW 22. Opting for the lineout, the Bulls worked their way forward through midfield, before scrum half Francois Hougaard shrugged off the defence to burrow over. Steyn’s conversion levelled the scores at 10-all with 25 minutes gone.
A second Barnes penalty gave the home side a slim three-point lead going in to the break and some further ill discipline from the Bulls’ pack cost them again, when Barnes found the target for a third time after 49 minutes. But the lead changed hands again 10 minutes later when the home side’s defence was stretched, allowing Ndungane to dart over in the right hand corner and touch down for his side’s second try of the night. Steyn’s boot gave the visitors a one-point advantage but it was short lived, with the HSBC Waratahs following it up with their second try of the night, after a pass from Dean Mumm allowed Barnes to throw another cut out pass, this time to right wing Pakalani, who dived over in the corner. With Elsom making way for Lopeti Timani in one of a number of replacements on the 60 minute mark, Barnes assumed the captaincy, missing the posts for the first time before handing over the kicking duties to oncoming halfback Brendan McKibbin.
A penalty apiece for Steyn and McKibbin took the scores to 24-20 in NSW’s favour, setting up a nail biting final eight minutes for the passionate 17,368-strong Allianz Stadium crowd. But it all went wrong for NSW when they conceded two penalties in as many minutes, allowing the Bulls to steal victory with a classic pick and drive effort that saw Kruger crash over in the final minutes, with Steyn’s conversion taking the final score to 27-24 in the visitors’ favour.
The HSBC Waratahs now start their two-week tour to South Africa, where they will face the Western Stormers this Sunday (3.10am AEST) and the Free State Cheetahs at 1.05am the following Sunday (May 27). The 26-man squad will be named shortly.
Bulls 27 (tries: Hougaard, Ndungane, W. Kruger; pens: M.Steyn 2; cons: M.Steyn 3) d HSBC Waratahs 24 (tries: Horne , Pakalani; pens: Barnes 3, McKibbin; cons: Barnes) at Allianz Stadium
Half-time: HSBC Waratahs 13 – 10 Bulls
HSBC Waratahs: 15. Daniel Halangahu (Sydney University) 14. Tom Kingston (Sydney University) 13. Rob Horne (Southern Districts) 12. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs) 11. Atieli Pakalani (Southern Districts) 10. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University), vice captain 9. Sarel Pretorius (Gordon) 8. Wycliff Palu (Manly) 7. Chris Alcock (Eastwood) 6. Rocky Elsom (Randwick) captain 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts) 4. Dean Mumm (Sydney University) 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick) 2. John Ulugia (Southern Districts) 1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
Replacements: 16. Josh Mann-Rea (Manly) 17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University) 18. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts)19. Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts) 20. Dave Dennis (Sydney University) 21. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs) 22. Tom Carter (Sydney University)
Bulls: 15. Zane Kirchner 14. Akona Ndungane 13. Johann Sadie 12. Francois Venter 11. Bjorn Basson 10. Morné Steyn 9. Francois Hougaard 8. Pierre Spies 7. CJ Stander 6. Deon Stegmann 5. Juandré Kruger 4. Flip van der Merwe 3. Werner Kruger 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle 1. Dawie Steyn
Replacements: 16. Willie Wepener 17. Rayno Gerber 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp 19. Arno Botha 20. Jano Vermaak 21. Louis Fouché 22. JJ Engelbrecht
Yellow Cards: Dean Mumm (23rd minute)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Ian Smith (Australia) & Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Rocky Elsom will lead the HSBC Waratahs for the second time when the side takes on the Bulls at Allianz Stadium this Friday night (May 11, 7.40pm).