Chiefs back on top after downing Bulls
The Chiefs have climbed back to the top of the Super Rugby table after coming from behind to beat fellow high-fliers the Bulls 28-22 in a willing contest in Hamilton.
The Bulls, with some suffocating defence and their rolling maul again a weapon, had controlled large parts of the first hour of the match on Friday night.
But the Chiefs then produced two excellent tries to mark flanker Liam Messam’s franchise record-breaking 90th match with a win.
The home side’s decision to turn down a penalty shot at goal paid dividends when a well-worked move ended with winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma going through a gap to dot down.
Aaron Cruden’s conversion pushed the Chiefs 21-19 ahead, before Bulls five-eighth Morne Steyn, who collected 17 points from the boot, put the South Africans back in front.
However, the Chiefs went ahead for the final time after a big breakout from their own line.
Centre Sonny Bill Williams, who showed some good touches throughout the match, then ran through a big hole before offloading for flanker Sam Cane to score.
The Chiefs produced some staunch defence of their own to hold on over the final 10 minutes.
“We’re thrilled that we can kick on in a very tight game, a very physical game,” Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said. “We were down by a little bit at halftime. We knew we were playing some good footy if we could keep doing what we were doing and we did that.”
It was the second week in a row that the Bulls had lost a close match in New Zealand, although they remain well in the hunt for a playoff spot.
They had the better of possession and territory in the opening half and pulled out to an early 6-3 lead.
But when winger Akona Ndungane lost the ball on his own 22 under pressure from Tikoirotuma, impressive Chiefs fullback Andrew Horrell showed some good soccer skills to toe ahead and score.
The visitors struck back with another Steyn penalty and then a try right on halftime to Bjorn Basson.
After his forwards had laid the platform, the winger showed footwork and speed to get brush off marker Lelia Masaga.
Steyn added the extras to notch up his 200th Super Rugby conversion.
“I think it was a quality game, a game of two halves,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said.
“The Chiefs played really well in the second half and they deserved their win.© AAP 2013
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