Bulls steal last minute victory from Waratahs
NSW looked as though they’d done enough to keep their Super Rugby season alive, only for the Bulls to steal a 27-24 victory in the dying minutes in Sydney on Friday night.
The Waratahs, who are thirteen points off top spot in the Australian Conference, led 24-20 with two minutes remaining before self-destructing at a vital scrum five metres out from their own line.
It seemed NSW had already gained a reprieve from the dire situation on their own line when, at the previous set-piece, the Bulls were pinged for not throwing the ball in straight from a line-out.
However from the ensuing scrum, Waratahs forward Lopeti Timani, who was playing No.8, picked the ball up off the back of the scrum and was forced back into his own in-goal by the surging Bulls.
It gave the competition leaders a last-ditch chance to clinch the result which they took to virtually extinguish NSW’s finals ambitions.
Lock Juandre Kruger forced his way over off the back of the scrum win and the Waratahs were left to lament where it all went wrong.
Michael Foley’s men depart on a two-match tour to South Africa on Saturday and, while it looked as though they’d take a glimmer of hope with them to the rainbow nation, they’re now looking at a long trip.
To add insult to the result, Wycliff Palu left the field hobbling and although Benn Robinson did eventually return to the action, the prop too was forced off with injury.
The only silver lining is Drew Mitchell passed a fitness test on Friday to be available for selection on the tour.
NSW five-eighth Berrick Barnes was outstanding for the home side, engineering their two tries with a superb passing game.
Barnes took the ball to the line off a line-out in the 16th minute and cut-out decoy runners Adam Ashley-Cooper and Tom Kingston to put outside centre Rob Horne into a gaping hole and on a 30-metre dash to the line to give the Waratahs a 10-3 lead and the edge at halftime.
Bulls winger Akona Ndungane gave the visitors a 17-16 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes, but Barnes again responded to put Atieli Pakalani over and give the Waratahs the lead going into the final stretch.
Waratahs coach Foley said he’d spoken to giant forward Timani after the match and told him to keep his head up, however he lamented the side’s poor execution at the death.
“I’m more interested in ensuring he doesn’t beat himself up too much at this point in time,” said Foley.
“There’s a couple of little things we need to do differently if we had that situation again, Lopeti’s role is one of them and there’s a couple of other guys who need to do their roles a bit better in that situation as well.
“What it has come down to has been individual moments where there’s been a decision made or an error made that has cost us.
“For us to take that next step we’ve got to control those little moments … they managed those tight moments slightly better than us.”
Foley refused to discuss whether their finals hopes were over.
“All that matters for us now is to recover from the disappointment and to prepare well for next week,” he said.
Foley reported that injuries to Palu and Robinson didn’t appear serious and confirmed star Wallaby Mitchell would be in line for selection in the second South African match against the Cheetahs.
The Bulls had a down night by their standards but still managed to hang in there and Waratahs captain Elsom said his side had learnt a hard lesson from that.
“You can always do things better and we just need to do things that little bit better … there’s not a lot of satisfied faces in the dressing room,” Elsom said.© AAP 2013
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