Bulls end Sharks' winning start
March 22, 2014
Marcell Coetzee saw his unbeaten season with the Sharks end in Pretoria © Getty Images
Quade Cooper's brace of tries wasn't enough to earn the Queensland Reds a win over the Lions on Saturday, with the boot of his kicking counterpart Marnitz Boshoff once again proving pivotal for the South African representatives, who won 23-20. Cooper scored all points for the Australian visitors, who were 20-6 up at the break, but Lionel Mapoe and Courtnall Skosan crossed over for second-half scores, once again putting the fixture within sight of the Johannesburg hosts. Boshoff's three penalties and two conversions may not have matched the individual accomplishments of Cooper, but Skosan's 77th-minute try meant that the Wallaby's input counted for nought but a losing bonus point.
In Pretoria, the Bulls brought an end to the Sharks' winning start to the season, emerging from the South African encounter as 23-19 winners. Willem Alberts opened the scoring for the visitors on seven minutes, but that was the only try that the Natal outfit would produce, with Tim Swiel and Francois Steyn adding all other contributions from the tee. Jacques-Louis Potgeiter struck a first-half penalty and drop goal to keep the hosts within some touching distance of their foes, but it was only in the second period that the Bulls really found their stride. Jacques Du Plessis touched down within seven minutes of the second half kicking off before JJ Engelbrecht added a second just six minutes later, a combination of Potgeiter and substitute Handre Pollard keeping the score ticking over with the boot.
The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, failing to score in Perth as Western Force denied the reigning Super Rugby champions a fourth consecutive win of the season. Captain Matt Hodgson scored two tries to seal a third successive win for Western Force, who can now look to claim four straight victories for the first time in their franchise's history. Western Force's defensive display deserves its plaudits, with the visitors restricted to scoring just five penalties in total, four of which Aaron Cruden slotted while Gareth Anscombe added a fifth. Both teams now sit among the top six in the overall Super Rugby standings, but it's Western Force who will be far happier with their position following this most recent result.
The Brumbies extended their winning streak to four matches with a 25-15 win over the Stormers, retaking their place at the top of the Australian conference and assuming second spot in the Super Rugby standings. Robbie Coleman crossed over on either side of half-time to give the Canberra hosts a deserved lead, but Allistair Coetzee's side struck back through tries from Duane Vermeulen and Juan de Jongh to keep matters tight until the closing stages. It was in the 79th minute that the Brumbies, having struggled in the scrum up until that point, dominated the set piece to draw a penalty try at the death. Nic White's two penalties and two conversions were also decisive, his Stormers kicking counterpart Peter Grant not managing to muster the same points tally.
The Blues bounced back from their loss to the Lions as they saw off the Cheetahs 40-30 in Auckland on Saturday. They capitalised on a harsh yellow card for Cheetahs loose forward Boom Prinsloo by scoring 17 points during his 10 minute absence late in the first half, and it was too much for the last-placed Cheetahs despite their best efforts at a second-half rally. Simon Hickey kept the scoreboard ticking over the Blues and finished the match with 20 points with the Blues grabbing three tries in the first-half thanks to efforts from Steven Luatua, George Moala and Tevita Li as they went into the break 30-16 to the good. The Cheetahs grabbed two tries in the second-half through Cornall Hendricks and Hennie Daniller, to add to Prinsloo's first-half score, but Tony Woodcock's try and the boot of Hickey kept the Blues in front.
The Highlanders survived a late Beauden Barrett-inspired fightback from the Hurricanes to win 35-31 in Dunedin. The boot of Lima Sopoaga and tries from Phil Burleigh and Patrick Osborne gave the Highlanders a comfortable 35-12 lead with 20 minutes remaining. But a Hurricanes onslaught led by New Zealand international Barrett saw the visitors come close to taking a memorable win. Barrett scored two tries in a personal points tally of 26, with prop Ben Franks also going over for the Hurricanes. Life was not made any easier for the Highlanders when Jarrad Hoeata was sent to the sin-bin, but the home side managed to cling on for victory, leaving the Hurricanes with a losing bonus-point for their efforts.
Peter Betham scores for the Waratahs © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs were comfortable winners in their clash with Melbourne Rebels in Sydney, easing to a 32-8 victory over their Australian conference rivals.
Tahs started quickly with a try from winger Alofa Alofa after just three minutes. The home side followed it up through scores from Peter Betham and Israel Folau to secure a bonus-point win over a Rebels side who put up more of a fight than the scoreline suggests.
The Rebels frustrated the Tahs for long periods of the first half and looked the better team going into the break. But the Tahs have a wealth of individual talent in their line-up, with Kurtley Beale in particular causing all sorts of problems for his former team. It was a tale of too many missed tackles for the Rebels, whose only points came in the first-half thanks to a converted Scott Higginbotham try.
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