Currie Cup final 2004
Bulls claim third successive Currie Cup crown
October 23, 2004
Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield parade the 2004 Currie Cup after the Blue Bulls defeated Free State at Loftus Versfeld, October 23 2004
Bulls locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha parade the Currie Cup
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Blue Bulls 42 - 33 Free State

The Blue Bulls made it three Currie Cup championships in a row when they ousted Free State 42-33 in a passionate and exciting final at Loftus Versfeld.

Centre Ettienne Botha scored two tries in a match that Free State spent chasing unsuccessfully for 70 of the 80 minutes. Heyneke Meyer's Bulls team prevailed with six tries to four and ruthlessly exploited Free State's mistakes.

It took the Bulls just two minutes to open the scoring, with prolific flyhalf Derick Hougaard stepping up to take the penalty after their maul had been collapsed. Free State briefly looked threatening when first Hougaard's opposite number, Willem de Waal, squared matters with a penalty of his own before left wing Anton Pitout fell on the ball after skipper Rassie Erasmus had lost it backwards in stretching for the line.

But the Bulls responded with a brilliant spell of rugby in which they scored 24 points without reply in the next 20 minutes. It has to be said that Free State played a significant part in their own demise.

There was not a great deal of defensive grit prior to outside centre Frikkie Welsh getting over in the left-hand corner in the 11th minute. For their second, however, the Bulls systematically wore down the Cheetahs, with the relentless onslaught ending with Botha scoring his 17th Currie Cup try of the season.

Free State, it must be said, also played a big part in their own demise and that was perfectly illustrated in the build-up to Victor Matfield's try under their posts. Bulls tighthead Richard bands rekindled memories of his great try at Dunedin last year when he set off on a run from turnover ball.

Matfield scored from ensuing play, though Free State had a strong case for an obstruction charge. But the try stood and Hougaard's conversion made it 20-7. The agony was compounded when right wing Keegan Fredericks pounced after the ball had been spilled in the Free State midfield.

The Cheetahs nevertheless had enough gas left in the tank for a fight, albeit one in which they were outgunned by heavy artillery up front. De Waal drew three points back with a penalty in the 33rd minute before fullback Tsepo Kokoali scored as the ball travelled down the line just before the break.

First blood in the second half went to the Cheetahs with a De Waal penalty from 55 metres, but the excitement was short-lived. Again the Cheetahs paid the price for a turnover after De Waal's hospital pass, with Bulls left wing Gavin Passens latching onto the ball to make the most of the opportunity.

The Bulls then played Hougaard into the perfect position for a drop goal and he succeeded from a comfortable position. Their party piece, however, came in the 62nd minute, when Botha set off on a stunning solo run on which he beat four men to score under the posts.

Hougaard's conversion made it 42-19, which with only 18 minutes left was too big a gap to bridge. That was not going to prevent the Cheetahs from trying and quick hands from Erasmus and Kokoali got flank Hendro Scholtz over in the corner in the 68th minute.

Just over a minute later there were nervous flutters for the parochial crowd when left wing Anton Pitout ran in for a converted try after a powerful drive up field from replacement prop Gurthro Steenkamp.

Free State showed plenty of endeavour in the remaining 10 minutes, but were simply not precise enough in their execution in attacking positions and the Bulls deservedly bagged the trophy of a competition they had dominated from the outset this season.

Blue Bulls: Tries: Frikkie Welsh, Ettienne Botha (2), Victor Matfield, Keegan Fredericks, Gavin Passens Conversions: Derick Hougaard (3) Penalty: Hougaard Drop goal: Hougaard.

Free State: Tries: Anton Pitout, Tsepo Kokoali, Hendro Scholtz, Anton Pitout Conversions: Flyhalf Willem de Waal (2) Penalties: De Waal (3).


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