Bulls seal crucial away win
Wellington - Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked 21 points, including two drop goals, as the Bulls beat the Hurricanes 26-14 in Vodacom Super Rugby action on Saturday.
Both teams scored one try - the Bulls through winger Francois Hougaard and the Hurricanes through Serge Lilo - but Steyn's unerring boot separated the teams.
He kicked seven goals from eight attempts while his opposite number Daniel Kirkpatrick managed only two penalties from five attempts.
The win was the fourth from six matches this season for the Bulls, lifting them to second place in the South African conference behind the unbeaten Stormers. The Hurricanes are now last in the New Zealand conference with one win from six games.
"We're very happy about the win tonight. We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Bulls captain Victor Mafield said. "We knew it wasn't going to be a nice, open game. We had to grind it out and the guys did well."
The Pretoria-based Bulls built their win in the first half when they controlled possession and territory with Steyn kicking three penalties and two drop goals to give them a 15-3 lead by halftime.
"I think that's what it's all about. We have the best 9 and 10 in the world and they're kicking well. We used them well tonight, they got us in their half and we scored the points," Matfield said.
The Hurricanes fought back with a try to Lilo after 45 minutes which cut the lead to 15-8, then a penalty to Kirkpatrick which made the lead 15-11. They had a much greater share of possession in the second half and they attacked desperately, but the Bulls' defense repelled almost every threat.
Steyn nudged the Bulls ahead 18-11 with his fourth penalty. Aaron Cruden hit back with a penalty for the Hurricanes, then Hougaard scored the try for the Bulls that decided the match.
Centre Wynand Olivier made a brilliant midfield break and linked with Hougaard, who scored untouched.
"Wynand cut the line brilliantly and Francois managed to finish it off, so we're very happy with that," Matfield said. "They were really coming back and they were fighting to the end."
The Bulls now face the Crusaders in their second match of an excting road trip. The Crusaders are riding a four-match winning streak, which includes last week's convincing win over the Sharks in London.
"The Crusaders are a team who are in form at the moment but, again, we'll enjoy tonight and think about them on Monday again," Matfield said.
Hurricanes - Try: Serge Lilo. Penalties: Daniel Kirkpatrick (2), Aaron Cruden.
Vodacom Bulls - Try: Francois Hougaard. Penalties: Morne Steyn (5). Drop goals: Steyn (2).
15 Cory Jane, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Jack Lam, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 John Schwalger
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Charlie Ngatai
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Dean Greyling
Substittutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Francois Brummer, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen