Game of the Week - Bulls go clear at top
March 20, 2009
Bulls skipper Fourie du Preez questions one of five yellow and one red card shown by Australian referee Matt Goddard
© Getty Images
The Bulls maintained their unbeaten Super 14 record with a 19-14 defeat of the Hurricanes that bordered on farcical in Wellington.
Australian referee Matt Goddard was the central figure at Westpac Stadium, dishing out five yellow cards and one red, while hammering the hosts in the penalty count.
It created a stop-start affair which suited the South Africans to a tee, with halfback Fourie Du Preez and fly-half Morne Steyn content to bomb away to good effect in swirling conditions, while Steyn landed 14 points with the boot. A five-from-five record will see the Bulls extend their lead while the hosts will slip from fifth to mid-table by the completion of round six.
The Hurricanes failed to take advantage of dominance at the breakdown made more basic errors and never came to grips with Goddard, losing the penalty count 13-3. They were also outplayed in the final quarter when the Bulls were a man down, the visitors showing tremendous defence and spirit in the first match of a five-game tour.
Goddard sent Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann off in the 50th minute for what was a second yellow card offence, a lifting tackle on Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith. All Black Smith landed on the back of his neck and was escorted gingerly from the field before undergoing hospital tests.
The other Bulls player sinbinned was flanker Pedrie Wannenburg, the first player to face Goddard's wrath, in the 20th minute. Three Hurricanes saw yellow, second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu and flanker Scott Waldrom for professional fouls and lock Jason Eaton for rucking counterpart Bakkies Botha.
It reached the stage where nearly every penalty seemed to result in a sinbin, with the sideline official running multiple stopwatches on offenders.
With 25 minutes remaining Goddard reinforced his intentions to both captains. "If you haven't noticed, I'm not going to let up here," he said.
His policing didn't halt a willing forward battle, with hooker Andrew Hore adding considerable starch to the Hurricanes pack in his first start of the season. The hosts often tried to drive over from close range but were defied time and again by blue defenders or handling errors.
Revenge was sweet for the Bulls, who were hammered 50-22 by their opponents in Pretoria last year.
Since then they have gone on a nine-match winning streak, including tonight's match which improves a dreadful record on New Zealand soil. Both teams were coming off a bye and it was the Hurricanes who looked most in need of a run through the opening exchanges.
Steyn had his team 6-0 up inside 10 minutes, both set up by strong runs from No.8 Pierre Spies. Impressive Hurricanes fullback Tamati Ellison struck back with the only try of the first half, scything through on a sublime angle before shrugging off the tackle of Bulls captain Du Preez.
However, Goddard's influence began to dominate from there and Steyn landed a penalty to regain a 9-7 lead by halftime. The Hurricanes were confident they had crossed through lock Jeremy Thrush but Goddard ruled out because of an earlier infringement from the home side.
Steyn landed his fourth penalty soon after halftime, another rush of cards ensued before Bulls centre JP Nel scored a classy try in the 57th minute after the home defence was stretched to both sides. Lock Jason Eaton earned his side a bonus point with a try in the final minute.
Hurricanes captain Rodney So'oialo held his tongue when asked to assess Goddard's performance. "We had a few exchanges there. The ref just has to go and see how he reffed the game tonight," he told Sky Sport.
"It was very frustrating to have so many penalties, especially when we were in try-scoring positions. We're not too disappointed, even though we lost the game. We came away with a bonus point, which was very needed."
Du Preez cut a contrasting figure and played down Goddard's influence. "It probably went both ways so (Goddard) wasn't too bad. Every game is refereed differently so you just have to adapt," he said. "Credit to all the guys it was a brilliant win. To play with 14 men, defending a lot, it was a great experience."
The Hurricanes now embark on a three-match road trip starting against the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend. The Bulls travel up the road to face the Highlanders in Palmerston North, which will host Super rugby's first neutral venue match.
Hurricanes: Ellison; Guildford, Smith, Nonu, Gear, Weepu, Mathewson; Schwalger, Hore, Tialata, Thrush, Eaton, Lowe, Waldrom, So'oialo (captain)
Replacements: Coles, Ellison, Evans, Levave, Ripia, Kawau, Smith.
Bulls: Kirchner; Ndungane, Nel, Olivier, van den Heever, Steyn, du Preez (captain); Steenkamp, Kuün, Kruger, Botha, Rossouw, Stegmann, Wannenburg, Spies
Replacements: Ralepelle, Gerber, Steenkamp, Potgieter, Adams, Francis, Pretorius.