BULLS No Breeze for Hurricanes
Hurricanes v Northern Bulls, WestpacTrust Stadium, 03 03 01
SUPER 12 supporters were saved from sleep at WestpacTrust Stadium tonight when what had been a pedestrian game roared to life in the final 15 minutes with a stampeding Jonah Lomu try and a stirring comeback by the Bulls, who in the end were only edged 26-20 by the hometown Hurricanes.
Up until the last quarter the game had little to offer the rugby fan as poor play and failure to deal with new laws dampened any chance of a spectacle. Even rugby's purists would have been hard pressed to find entertainment in a contest of monotonous set pieces played between the two respective 22 metre lines.
Hardly inspiring stuff and verging on a criminal waste of resources when you consider the talents of Christian Cullen, Brad Fleming, Tana Umaga and of course, Jonah. Despite these riches outwide the Hurricanes insisted on a tactic of continually turning the ball back-inside to set up further phases with the aim of eventually creating space. This would probably work if the phases were strung together Brumbies style but they weren't and the brilliant outsides were left starved of ball.
With these tactics denying the threequarters it was up to the impact runners to break through and beefed-up blindside Jerry Collins proved his class with a powerful 20 metre surge that he completed with a delicate reverse pass to Jason Spice.
The quicksilver scrumhalf then linked with loosehead Kevin Yates, who revealed outstanding support play to be in position to score the opening try which gave the Hurricanes a 5-3 lead with 22 minutes gone.
The half puttered out with David Holwel slotting a penalty to give the Hurricanes an 8-3 advantage at the break. He added another early in the second half and would have extended the lead beyond 11-3 were it not for the woodwork which he hit with two penalty attempts ( the posts were hit four times ).
With the incomparable Joost van der Westhuizen urging them on the Bulls got back in the game when Springbok U23 player Francis Lombard sprinted clear to dot down to bring the game close at 11-8 to the Hurricanes.
Then after a period of play when they threatened to breach the South Africans' defence the Hurricanes were rewarded when quick-thinking by Spice at a tap penalty saw the ball moved quickly to rangey second-rower Paul Tito who crashed over to earn his team a 18-8 lead with Holwel's conversion.
Another Holwel penalty followed, before the crowd were finally rewarded, for enduring an extremely uninspiring evening of rugby, by the sight of Lomu knocking over big men like skittles on a 15 metre rampage to score the try which gave the Hurricanes a 26-8 lead with 10 minutes of play remaining.
Unfortunately the Hurricanes' faithful were unable to savour Lomu's powerhouse effort for long as the home team, to the disappointment of their coach Graham Mourie, promptly lost their heads and allowed the Bulls to score two late tries which enabled them to snatch a bonus point despite suffering a 26-20 defeat.