The Northern Bulls completed a South African whitewash over New Zealand sides with an upset 28-21 win over the Auckland Blues in their Super 15 clash at Eden Park yesterday.
The Bulls’ first victory over the Blues since 2009 followed the Central Cheetahs’ 36-19 downing of the Otago Highlanders and the Western Stormers holding off reigning champions the Waikato Chiefs 36-34.
All three victories were the result of dominating the New Zealand sides in the forwards.
“It’s pretty good, I must say,” Bulls skipper Pierre Spies said. “It’s a great day for us. I’m thankful and humble, and it was a great team effort. It’s not easy coming here to win.”
Both the Bulls and Blues went into the match brimming with confidence after winning their opening two matches, but the Aucklanders could not reproduce the forward power they had previously shown.
Coach John Kirwan had raised eyebrows with a raft of changes to his side, including starting five debutants.
It was a gamble that did not pay off.
The Blues had first points on the board with a penalty by flyhalf Baden Kerr, playing his second Super Rugby match, in an early kicking duel with Morne Steyn which saw the Blues take a 6-3 lead.
However, the Bulls were always threatening, and 20 minutes into the game they produced two tries in five minutes from wings Lionel Mapoe and Akona Ndungane to go 15-6 ahead.
The Blues bounced back in the opening stages of the second half when Kerr kicked his third penalty, followed by fullback Charles Piutau scoring a try, which was converted for a 16-15 lead.
However, the Bulls responded immediately when loose forward Arno Botha crossed the line, with Steyn adding the extras and a further penalty.
Rene Ranger brought the Blues back within striking range at 21-25 with a late try, before Steyn put the result beyond doubt with his third successful penalty on full time.
Earlier, the Stormers held off a spirited comeback from the Chiefs for a thrilling 36-34 victory at Newlands on Saturday.
Joe Pietersen’s 21 points with the boot and two Gio Aplon tries for the home side proved the difference as the Stormers, twice semi-finalists in the last three seasons, recorded a first victory of the current campaign.
The Stormers went ahead with an early penalty before a slick move was rounded off by pacey winger Aplon to put the hosts 8-0 up inside the first eight minutes. Pietersen duly converted.
The teams traded penalties after that before the Chiefs scored a try when Pietersen failed to collect the restart and a grubber kick from Aaron Cruden fell perfectly for Charlie Ngatai to touch down.
The conversion made it 13-10 and the Stormers, enjoying more of the territory and possession, added two more penalties to extend their lead as the visitors were reduced to 14 men after 35 minutes when Tawera Kerr-Barlow saw yellow.
However, the Chiefs capitalized on some sloppy work from the home side at the breakdown to turn over possession.
Cruden was again the provider as another grubber was picked up by Tim Nanai-Williams to run in unopposed.
That closed the gap to two points, but the Stormers extended their lead once more after the hooter had sounded for halftime.
Cruden tried yet another grubber from the restart following the try, but the ball went straight to Rynhardt Elstadt, who booted the ball forward.
Aplon brilliantly anticipated the situation to outpace the retreating Chiefs and dive on the loose ball over the line for his second try. Pietersen added the conversion for a 26-17 halftime advantage.
After the restart the Chiefs pulled back with a Gareth Anscombe penalty, though the Stormers soon extended their lead with another try when scrumhalf Nic Groom wriggled through the narrowest of gaps to score.
A Pieterson conversion took the lead out to 33-20, but the Chiefs showed their star quality when they scored two converted tries to a solitary Stormers penalty to get themselves to within two again.
Ngatai was set-up by a great break from Anscombe and coasted in before Andrew Horrell went over in the corner for the bonus-point try after some wonderful handling by the backs.
In Port Elizabeth, Patrick Lambie scored all the points for the Coastal Sharks as they ground out a 21-12 victory over the Southern Kings on Saturday in a fiery, tryless Super 15 clash.
The Springbok flyhalf succeeded with his six penalty attempts at a near-full Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the Indian Ocean city.