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Bulls beat Cheetahs

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The Bulls ended a four match losing streak when they beat the Cheetahs 26-21 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

The victory was the Bulls first in five matches as they drew with the Chiefs before their tour and lost four matches on tour. The victory evens out the number of wins between the teams for 2014 as the Cheetahs beat the Bulls 15-9 in Bloemfontein in the second round. The result is the Bulls fourth win of the season from eleven matches while the loss is the Cheetahs eighth from eleven matches.

The Cheetahs remained on the bottom of the standings and the Bulls held on to the tenth place overall and the second place in the South African Conference. The Bulls erased a nine-point first-half deficit to outscore the visitors in the second half and deny them their first victory at Loftus Versfeld. The visitors opened an 18-9 lead after the first 40 minutes thanks to two tries and a bit of luck, while the home side were slightly flat-footed in the opening exchanges.

The Bulls took an early lead thanks to a Handre Pollard penalty conversion in the seventh minute before Elgar Watts responded for the Cheetahs two minutes later with a three-pointer of his own. The hosts had a tough time at the breakdown, where they conceded plenty of turnovers, allowing the Cheetahs’ dangerous outside backs possession with which to launch attacks. Against the flow of the game, the Cheetahs found a breakthrough in the 18th minute when centre Johann Sadie sprinted the length of the field to score.

The try stemmed from an encouraging Bulls’ attack inside the Cheetahs’ 22 when Sadie intercepted a Pollard pass meant for Grant Hattingh. Watts converted Sadie’s try. Four minutes later the Bulls suffered another blow when Pollard was yellow-carded in a rather cynical call for not retreating. The Cheetahs grabbed the three points for the penalty to extend their lead to 13-3 before Bulls’ fullback Jurgen Visser narrowed the gap six minutes later with a penalty goal.

Three minutes before the half-time break, Pollard brought his side within four points of the Cheetahs with a penalty conversion. The Cheetahs, however, had the final say when Raymond Rhule was the final receiver to dot down in the right-hand corner. The backline put the ball smoothly through the hands, with Sadie establishing the gap before off-loading beautifully to Benjamin who in turn sent a long pass to Rhule on the wing for the try. Watts missed the conversion.

The Bulls made a spirited drive on the Cheetahs’ line after the break, with the visitors initially absorbing the pressure. The hosts finally broke through in the 45th minute when towering lock Paul Willemse surged over the line for a try, with Pollard converting to bring the home side within two points of the visitors. Goosen pulled back three points in the 52nd minute before the Bulls again found the tryline with hooker Callie Visagie this time the recipient.

Pollard added the two points to give the hosts a 23-21 lead. In the 67th minute, Jacques-Louis Potgieter slotted a penalty conversion which proved to be the final points of the match.

Final Score Bulls 26 (9) Cheetahs 21 (18)

Scorers

Bulls
Tries – P.Willemse, C.Visagie
Pen – H.Pollard 2, J.Visser, J.Potgieter
Con – H.Pollard 2
Cards – H.Pollard (21st min yellow)

Cheetahs
Tries – J.Sadie,R.Rhule
Pen – E.Watts 2, J.Goosen
Con – E,Watts

Stormers edge Highlanders

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The Stormers won their third match of the season when they beat the Highlanders 29-28 with a bonus point at Newlands in Cape Town.

The victory extends the Stormers winning streak over the Highlanders to six matches as the last time the Highlanders beat the Cape Town side was in 2007. Both teams scored four tries and earned the bonus point so the Stormers take five points in the standings and the Highlanders take two as they also finished within seven points. The Highlanders have now completed their tour of South Africa and take six points back to Dunedin.

The New Zealanders arrived at Newlands in a rich vein of form which had seen them recording back-to-back wins over the Rebels, Bulls and Sharks in successive weeks. But the Stormers’ overall attacking flair saw them score four tries in a match for the first time this season, and with it their first 2014 bonus-point win. The Highlanders also managed four tries but in the end a penalty made the difference as the Stormers squeezed out a one-point win.

Before the kick-off, the Stormers surrendered some backline experience when New Zealand-born Sailosi Tagicakibau was declared unfit and rookie Kobus van Wyk replaced him on the left wing.

Cheslin Kolbe, back from a long injury lay-off, was moved on to the bench. The smallish Newlands crowd was treated to a thrilling start to the match as two tries, one at either end, were scored in the opening seven minutes. Stormers’ prop Frans Malherbe powered his way over the whitewash in the second minute and Highlanders’ scrumhalf Aaron Smith gathered a chip ahead for a seventh-minute touchdown.

Flyhalves Kurt Coleman (Stormers) and Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders) added the conversions (7-7). In ensuing play, the Stormers tried to run the ball from every quarter, even from their own 22-metre area.

They looked good and penetrative with ball in hand but poor option-taking and occasional handling errors presented the Highlanders with counter-attack opportunities. However, the Stormers scrambled well to keep their defences in check. The Stormers’ enterprising efforts over a 20-minute period should have seen them double their tally but try-scoring efforts by fullback Jaco Taute and Van Wyk were thwarted at the corner flag. The enterprise did eventually take its toll when flank Schalk Burger flicked a ‘bind’ pass out just five metres from the Highlanders’ tryline and Malherbe was on hand to snatch the ball and score his side’s second converted try in the 29th minute.

Six minutes ahead of the halftime break, the Stormers snatched a third try with right wing Damian de Allende diving over in the corner for an unconverted try to give the home side a handsome 19-7 lead.

Four minutes later, Highlanders’ left wing Trent Renata pounced on a kick ahead, which ricocheted off a Stormers player, to score a converted try far out and round-off the first-half scoring in the match. The Stormers started the second half in much the same vein as in the first half and just nine minutes later they were rewarded with a converted try by replacement prop Oli Kebble (on briefly for Malherbe) in the 48th minute. Coleman added the conversion. The 12-point deficit seemed to bring out the best in the New Zealand visitors and they responded with a two-try burst over a hectic six-minute passage of play when the Stormers were playing with a man short after hooker Scarra Ntubeni was yellow-carded.

The touchdowns by fullback Ben Smith and centre Malakai Fekitoa were both converted by Sopoaga and the visitors surged ahead.

The Highlanders’ substitute hook Brayden Mitchell was next to be yellow-carded and the Stormers’ substitute flyhalf, Peter Grant, goaled the resultant 65th-minute penalty to regain the lead for the home side, much to the delight of the 20,000 crowd. In the final 15 minutes of the match, both sides tried to open up play but defence triumphed over attack as threatening scoring movements were stifled effectively, mostly between the two 22-metre lines.

An offside infringement by the Highlanders gave the Stormers a chance to kick a penalty two minutes ahead of the final whistle but they chose to kick for touch and run down the clock from the resultant line-out driving maul.

Final Score Stormers 29 (19) Highlanders 28 (14)

Scorers

Stormers
Tries – F.Malherbe 2, D. de Allende, O.Kebble
Con – K.Coleman 3
Cards – S. Ntubeni (52nd min yellow)

Highlanders
Tries – A.Smith, T.Renata, B.Smith, M.Fekitoa
Pen – P.Grant
Con – L.Sopoaga 2, Renata 2
Cards – B.Mitchell (65th min yellow)