Bulls' Handre Pollard punishes Stormers in Pretoria
May 10, 2014
Handre Pollard produced a pivotal performance
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Bulls fly-half Handre Pollard kicked 20 points in a come-from-behind 28-12 triumph over fellow-South Africans the Stormers on Saturday.
The Stormers, bottom of the Super Rugby standings, made a sizzling start in Pretoria, scoring two tries to claim a 12-point lead after 20 minutes. But three Pollard penalties plus a drop-goal at Loftus Versfeld saw the teams level at 12-12 by half-time.
The second half belonged to the hosts, who scored 16 unanswered points to remain in the hunt for a top-six finish and a place in the knockout stages. Victory lifted Bulls two places to eighth with 28 points, just two fewer than the sixth-placed Highlanders. But the Pretoria side has played up to three games more than their plays-off rivals, and they are long shots to be among the survivors from the league phase.
The injury-ravaged Stormers have now lost eight of 11 games to be bottom of the combined standings, one point below compatriots the Cheetahs.
The Bulls kept their finals hopes alive by defeating the Stormers in Pretoria (video available in Australia only)
"We controlled the last 60 minutes after giving away two soft tries," Bulls skipper Victor Matfield said. "The guys never panicked, stuck to the game plan and our pressure forced penalties, leaving Handre to do the rest. I want to single out our fullback [Jurgen Visser] and wings [Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson] for special praise. They were excellent in the air and kicked well."
Stormers skipper and flanker Schalk Burger, deputising for injured centre Jean de Villiers, said the Cape Town outfit must learn to go the distance.
"We were excellent for 30 minutes and then individual mistakes crept in, penalties were conceded and the Bulls accumulated points," he said. "It was great to be back at Loftus after my lengthy [injury and illness] absence, but it would have been so much sweeter with a victory."
Burger, the 2004 World Rugby Player of the Year, gave an outstanding performance in the loose before retiring after 58 minutes. By then, Pollard had kicked two more penalties for an 18-12 advantage, and any chance of a Stormers' comeback evaporated 14 minutes from time.
The Stormers' defence failed to clear a grubber kick toward the right corner from scrum-half Francois Hougaard, and Ndungane booted the ball forward and won the touchdown race. Pollard converted from the touchline and his replacement, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, completed the scoring with a penalty.
The Bulls' second-half supremacy was a far cry from the opening exchanges, with turn-over ball offering Stormers the chances to run in two excellent tries. Burger was prominent in the first, scored after a sweeping movement by fly-half Kurt Coleman, who converted from in front of the posts.
Centre Juan de Jongh claimed the second try, holding off several Bulls to conclude a passage of play that began with Stormers hooker Scarra Ntubeni dispossessing flanker Jacques du Plessis.
Pollard potted his first penalty on 23 minutes and Bulls' comeback was under way. His 20 points comprised five penalties, a drop goal and a conversion. The Ndungane try and the Potgieter penalty completed the total for the three-time Super Rugby champions.