Chiefs courage wins out over confident Bulls

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Friday, March 16, 2018    Getty Images

It was shaping as a happy homecoming to Hamilton for Bulls coach John Mitchell as his side led 14-28 at the break, but the Chiefs crossed for four tries in an incredible second half to power to a 41-28 victory.


The Bulls have been viewed as one of the more conservative South African teams in Super Rugby in recent times, but it was clear after just three minutes the attacking stamp that former All Blacks coach John Mitchell has put on the side.

With clean ball from the top of the lineout, the Bulls skipped the ball to the midfield where the classy Jesse Kriel slipped an inside ball to wing Travis Ismaiel who set up fullback Warwick Galant for a stunning try.

It was quite an opening statement from the Bulls who had been largely written off since arriving in New Zealand. Despite the fast start, the Bulls quickly learned you cannot let your guard down against New Zealand sides – even for a moment. After conceding a penalty, the Bulls were caught napping when young first-five Tiaan Falcon used the advantage to full effect by nudging the ball through the defence and into the arms of Johnny Fa’auli for the equaliser.

But that was to be all Chiefs fans had to cheer about for a while as the Bulls took a stranglehold on the game for a 20 minute period.

Starved of possession, the Chiefs penalty count began to mount and so did the score line as impressive Bulls wing Divan Rousow crossed for a double in the 15th and 22nd minute to make it 21-7.

The Chiefs were surviving on scraps, but just as they did against the Blues, they made their limited opportunities count. When Brodie Retallick crashed over in the 35th minute to make it 21-14, coach Colin Cooper would have been happy to take that scoreline into the sheds given their lack of possession.

But the Bulls had the final say in the half when Springboks Jesse Kriel and Handre Pollard combined for a try to secure the commanding 14-28 lead.

The Chiefs needed to come flying out of the blocks in the second half and did just that when lock Mitchell Brown forced his way over from close range.

The revival was underway and there was no stopping the Chiefs in front of their home crowd. With big name players Damian McKenzie, Sam Cane, Anton Lienert-Brown and Brodie Retallick all leading the way, the Chiefs continuity and discipline improved markedly and it was the Bulls who found themselves lacking in possession.

The momentum was fully with the Chiefs in 55th minute when Brodie Retallick crossed for one of his greatest tries in Chiefs colours. Receiving the ball on the ’22, Retallick deceived the defence with a dummy before finishing off the try with a fend and bump off to close the gap to two points.

Soon after, Damian McKenzie slotted a penalty to grab a one-point lead for the home side.

The Bulls frustration was evident when reserve prop Conrad Van Vuuren was yellow-carded for a late hit on Damian McKenzie in the 68th minute.

With a one-man advantage, the Chiefs extended their lead to 34-28 through a Solomon Alaimalo try before Anton Lienert-Brown scored with time up on the clock to confirm the 41-28 win.

The Chiefs now head to Tokyo to play the Sunwolves next week and know that another victory will put them up near the top of the NZ Conference – an amazing effort considering they have no less than 14 players injured in their squad.

Chiefs 41 (Johnny Fa’auli, Brodie Retallick 2, Mitchell Brown, Solomon Alaimalo, Anton Lienert-Brown tries, Damian McKenzie 3 con, pen) Bulls 28 (Warrick Galant, Divan Rousow 2 tries, Handre Pollard try, 4 con)
HT: 14-28