Super 14 Round-up
Bulls claim top spot with victory over Stormers
March 7, 2009

The Bulls made it four wins from four and moved top of the Super 14 table with a 14-10 victory over The Stormers at Loftus Versfeld.

A try from centre Wynand Olivier and nine points from the boot of fly-half Morne Steyn were enough to see off their fierce South African rivals and leapfrog the Waratahs at the top of the table on points difference. Replacement hooker Deon Fourie notched a try for the Stormers while fly-half Willem de Waal added a drop goal and his replacement Peter Grant slotted a conversion.

Following the game, Bulls captain Victor Matfield paid tribute the the home support for helping his side see off a late surge from the Stormers. "The crowd helped and we lifted our defensive game during the last 10 minutes," he said.

The Blues and Ali Williams endured an unhappy homecoming at Eden Park as the Sharks underlined their title credentials with a composed 35-31 victory. Beaten finalists in 2001 and 2007, the Sharks banked a second valuable win in New Zealand -- after a 22-15 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton last week to remain unbeaten after four rounds.

A bloodied Springbok captain John Smit secured the four-try bonus point in the 68th minute, shortly after Joe Rokocoko lost the ball on the Sharks line. The turnaround encapsulated the clinical precision of the South Africans and a error-ridden Blues' side clearly taxed by their return journey from the Republic. Rokocoko at least salvaged a point when he crossed on fulltime --- a consolation score that may prove beneficial later in the competition.

The Hurricanes cruised to a 29-12 bonus-point win over the Cheetahs in New Plymouth, scoring two tries in each half. All Blacks left wing Hosea Gear powered over for two tries, and fullback Tamati Ellison and prop John Schwalger added the others. The result left the Cheetahs winless after four rounds while the Hurricanes, now with three wins and a loss, joined a group at the top of the table with 14 points.

Hooker Dane Coles, except for a number of miscued throw-ins, had a fine game, to make amends for his off-field misdemeanours which saw him sidelined from last week's win over the Crusaders. Also making an impact was blindside flanker Karl Lowe who made a number of dangerous breaks early in the first half.

The previously invincible Crusaders suffered their third consecutive loss when they were beaten 6-0 by the Highlanders at Carisbrook. In a game that too often lacked structure, with consistent errors in handling plaguing both teams, the main talking point of a scoreless first half came when All Blacks captain Richie McCaw limped from the field after 30 minutes. With New Zealand coach Graham Henry watching anxiously from the stand, McCaw sat out the rest of the match with his right knee heavily strapped and iced.

The Highlanders started strongly, but mistakes at crucial stages - and the customary solid Crusaders defence - meant their early possession advantage was too often wasted. It took an eagle eye from former Northlander Daniel Bowden to finally get points on the board, with a sweetly struck penalty in the 67th minute. Crusaders openside flanker George Whitelock was sinbinned soon for infringing in the ruck, and the Highlanders' lead was doubled soon after with another Bowden penalty.

As a result, the match produced the lowest combined score in Super Rugby since its inception in 1996.

The latest round of action in this year's Super 14 kicked off on Friday with the Chiefs powering past Western Force 31-13 in Hamilton.

The Chiefs cut down on the early errors of the first spell and maintained composure in the face of some intense pressure to secure their first win of the competition. Right from the first whistle, the Chiefs played with real intent, and were rewarded early after a long Callum Bruce pass found Richard Kahui, who linked with pacey winger Lelia Masaga.

Two Force penalties narrowed the gap but the Chiefs weathered the storm and regrouped before scrum-half Brendan Leonard crossed. Five minutes later the Chiefs extended their lead when Richard Kahui, returning after two weeks off with a hip injury, broke through some poor Force defence to score. The Force closed the gap in the second half when flanker Tamaiti Horua scooped up a loose ball to scor ehis side's first try. But the Chiefs wrapped up the win and the bonus point when Colin Bourke was given the nod in injury time after crashing over from a quick tap five metres out.


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