Steyn kicks Bulls to tense victory
Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked 22 points as his team came back from a 10-point deficit to beat the Crusaders 32-30 in a tight, entertaining game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday night.
The game had everything -- especially drama. And it may not be the last we hear about it either after two white cards were issued for allegations of eye gouging against the Crusaders for which referee Jaco Peyper issued a white card on both occasions, which means the citing commissioner will have a closer look.
And then there was more drama. Assistant referee Pro Legoete denying the Crusaders a late try -- one that they will claim could have given them the game -- when Dan Carter impeded Bjorn Basson from trying to make a try-saving tackle on Tom Taylor. Taylor scored, but Legoete adjudged rightly that Carter had impeded Basson and the try was disallowed.
It didn’t stop the Crusaders from coming back in breathtaking fashion at the end, as they forced the game to go down to the wire with two later tries and almost stole it at the end.
And the Bulls, who had fought so valiantly from 10-0 down at the start, almost threw it away as they took their foot off the pedal.
This after they worked their way back into contention after another poor start, as the Crusaders arrived ready and tested the Bulls from the kickoff.
In the first half the Bulls hardly had the ball, as the Crusaders continued to probe their defence. At halftime for instance, according to Rucking Good Stats, the Bulls had only 38% possession and had already made a massive 52 tackles.
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It also showed on the scoreboard as Crusaders went up early, first thanks to a beautiful line run by Kieran Reid that split the Bulls defence way too easily.
A penalty by Carter and a drop goal kept them ahead, but the Bulls slowly started clawing their way back into the game with Steyn’s boot keeping them in touch.
The 53-metre penalty just before halftime brought them to 13-9 behind at the break, and when Steyn added another just after the break, the Bulls were back in business.
It took one of the nicest tries of the season to put them ahead, after a monster maul made its way 30 metres into the Crusaders half, the recycled ball was sent to CJ Stander, who found open space in front of him.
Stander offloaded to prop Dean Greyling, who proved his first name of MacGuyver by crafting the most breathtaking dummy by a prop to flummox the defence and run in untouched to score.
Once they were ahead, the Bulls had a new lease of life and they applied the vice grip, with Steyn’s boot getting them past the seven point margin needed to feel comfortable.
They even looked set to win quite comfortably when Steyn stabbed the ball through and Wynand Olivier pounced when Israel Dagg chose to try and kick the ball over the deadball line and missed.
With nine minutes to go, and 32-16 up, you would have expected the Bulls to close it out rather easily.
But such is the quality of the Crusaders side that they simply upped the tempo and started running a lot more direct, as opposed to the lateral shifts they had been trying the whole game.
A quick break from deep from Dan Carter put Zac Guildford over for the first try, and Tom Marshall added another with less than a minute to go.
And so the Bulls saw their lead cut to two points, with a kickoff and 20 seconds to go. The game that had seemed so easily the Bulls’ one a few minutes before suddenly looked theirs to lose.
They held out for two minutes of defence, and eventually the error came. The final whistle spelled victory, but it was a very relieved Bulls side that left the park.
And a very frustrated Crusaders side that will now head home.
Vodacom Bulls –Try: Dean Greyling, Wynand Olivier. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2). Penalties: Morne Steyn (6)
Crusaders –Try: Kieran Read, Zac Guildford, Tom Marshall. Conversions: Dan Carter (3). Drop Goal: Dan Carter. Penalties: Dan Carter, Tom Taylor.