Bulls v Crusaders, Super 14 semi-final, May 22
Powerful Bulls book final spot
May 22, 2010
The Bulls' Pierre Spies celebrates his early try
© Getty Images
The Bulls booked their place in the Super 14 final with a powerful 39-24 victory over the Crusaders in Soweto on Saturday, with tries from Pierre Spies, Zane Kirchner and Fourie du Preez ending New Zealand's interest in this year's tournament.
Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn kicked 24 points to break Dan Carter's season points scoring record, with his tally now standing at 247 for this campaign.
The visitors scored three tries of their own through Richie McCaw, Sean Maitland and Sam Whitelock but had no answer for Steyn's metronomic control and paid a heavy price for deficiencies at the scrum.
The game was shifted to Orlando Stadium, home of football side Orlando Pirates, as the Bulls' Loftus Versfeld fortress is out of bounds due to the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. The move brought with it a carnival atmosphere and both sides were greeted by the roar of the crowd's vuvuzelas, a racket to be repeated next weekend when the Bulls return for the final.
The Bulls were led out by talismanic lock Victor Matfield, playing his 100th game for the franchise and took only seconds to snatch the lead. Du Preez's service was typically crisp and Spies arrived onto a short pass like a rocket, powering through a midfield gap and slapping aside the challenge of Colin Slade to score. Only weeks after the sides played out a 40-35 thriller at Loftus the fans were on their feet in anticipation of another classic.
Steyn clipped over the conversion to draw level with Carter, but was denied a chance to snatch the record when Danie Rossouw was adjudged to have knocked on in the act of scoring following another defensive lapse from Slade. The Bulls pivot did not have to wait long to claim the record outright as a sloppy offside from the Crusaders on their 22 gifted the simplest of opportunities to the rampant home side.
The pendulum swung the way of the men from Christchurch soon after as solid scrum ball was turned into a combative maul by hooker Ti'i Paulo, with McCaw crashing over the line to score a vital try. Carter added the extras but Slade's nightmare start continued from the restart as his charged down clearance just eluded Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann.
The Crusaders' pitiful efforts under the high ball continued though and seconds later Kirchner was able to capitalise for the Bulls' second try. His towering Garryowen cannoned off the head of Whitelock and the fullback was first to react after Francois Hougaard had failed to gather. Steyn was again on target with the conversion and extended the lead with another penalty moments later.
Carter reduced the arrears to 10 with a well struck penalty but was unable to add another from distance when Andy Ellis' snappy break drew a penalty from Stegmann. To rub salt in the wound, Steyn hammered over a monster kick from seven metres inside his own half to re-establish a 13-point advantage as half-time approached.
The Crusaders boldly turned down a shot at goal but their scrum metres from the line produced only a breakout for Spies, who hacked the ball clear and was only prevented from bagging his second by a brilliant chase from Zac Guildford. The Bulls nevertheless secured a penalty, from which Steyn was uncharacteristically off target.
Maitland showed a clean pair of heels to the Bulls' defence five minutes after the restart to haul the Crusaders back into contention. Quick ball from Read to Ellis allowed Slade a sliver of time to release Maitland with a brilliant pass and the winger burst clear after Dewald Potgieter had missed a cover tackle. Carter converted but the Crusaders coughed up another three points to Steyn's boot immediately afterwards.
A fantastic break from Maitland then had the Bulls on the rack but Carter missed another shot at the sticks as the Bulls persisted in killing the visitors' possession. Paulo continued to rough up the Bulls with his direct style and his brilliant offload allowed Dan Bowden to come close to unpicking the defence with a well crafted grubber.
The Crusaders were unable to rue their missed chance for long as Du Preez showed his tactical nous to pounce for a brilliant solo try. From the base of a scrum just outside the opposition 22 the Bulls scrum-half snaffled the ball and eluded Read on the blindside, showing his pace to dive over in the corner. Steyn curled in the touchline conversion and took the game beyond the Crusaders with another penalty secured at a scrum.
Replacement prop Wyatt Crockett endured a torrid time at the hands of the Bulls' front-row and he conceded another penalty to Steyn, whose kick was followed by a consolation score out wide to Whitelock. The Bulls coasted over the finish line with gas to spare, and are now on course for a shot at retaining their title.