Morne Steyn produced another metronomic goal-kicking display, slotting 16 points with his boot, adding a try and setting up two others as the Bulls overcame a spirited Melbourne Rebels 41-35 in their Super Rugby match yesterday.
Steyn managed five conversions and two penalties, and did not miss a shot at goal, as the Bulls won their fourth successive match.
“It was pretty exciting from the stands, high intensity, good attacking from both sides, maybe not the best defensively from us, but good to get the win,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said.
“We needed these points,” he added of the victory that propelled them to the top of the South African conference on 42 points, one ahead of the Stormers, who have a bye.
The match was one of milestones for the Melbourne side, with Mark Gerrard making his 100th Super Rugby appearance, while club captain Stirling Mortlock was making his first of the season from the replacements’ bench after he recovered from a long-standing calf injury.
It was also their first match since they parted ways with enigmatic flyhalf Danny Cipriani, who has returned to England early. The former England international has signed with Sale for next season.
The first half was helter--skelter as both sides secured a bonus point by scoring four tries each with Melbourne’s captain Gareth Delve crashing over after the hooter had sounded to vindicate his decision not to take a penalty shot at goal and ensure the match was evenly poised, with the Bulls leading 31-28.
However, the second period failed to live up to the first as both sides adopted a more conservative, patterned approach for the first 20 minutes before Steyn’s deft chip-kick ahead was gathered by J.J. Engelbrecht to crash over and break the shackles.
Cooper Vuna struck back immediately for the Rebels for his second try, with Kurtley Beale adding his fifth conversion, before Steyn slotted a 72nd-minute penalty for the Bulls to give them a 41-35 lead that they held until the final whistle.
HURRICANES VS BLUES
AP, WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
All Blacks center Conrad Smith scored one try and created another as the Wellington Hurricanes beat the Auckland Blues 35-19 in Super Rugby yesterday.
Smith has haunted the Blues this season, scoring two tries including a last-second match-winner when the Hurricanes won their first meeting 26-25 in round five.
He was again the decisive individual, scoring the first of the Hurricanes’ three tries in the 10th minute and providing the final pass for the third try to winger Julian Savea.
Scrumhalf T.J. Perenara was also outstanding, repeatedly taxing the Blues defense before scoring the Hurricanes’ fourth bonus-point try in the 68th.
The Hurricanes inflicted the Blues’ ninth loss in 10 matches this season and their sixth in succession, keeping New Zealand’s largest and richest franchise anchored at the bottom of the Super 15 standings.
At the same time they posted their fifth win from 10 games, rising above expectations after the clearout of star players that took place when Mark Hammett -became Hurricanes coach at the end of last season.
They scored five tries to one, breaking out of a first-half tussle in which the lead changed hands five times and after which the Hurricanes took a brittle 16-12 lead to halftime.
The Hurricanes owed their advantage to first-half tries to Smith and fullback Andre Taylor. Taylor touched down for the eighth time this season to stay at the top of the tournament’s try-scoring list.