Super Rugby: Chiefs held to 34-34 draw by Bulls in tense Pretoria showdown
The Bulls held champions Chiefs to a 34-34 draw in a thrilling Super Rugby affair at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 29/03/14 3:53pm
Jacques-Louis Potgieter opened the scoring from the kicking tee before Mils Muliaina and Liam Messam both touched down to give the Chiefs a 12-3 lead.
The Bulls' riposte came in the form of a driving maul, which allowed Deon Stegmann to touch down, before a kicking duel between Potgieter and Chiefs fly-half Aaron Cruden made it a one-point game at the break.
Frans Ludeke's side came flying out of the blocks in the second half, earning a penalty try within four minutes and Bjorn Basson added a third for the Bulls, who appeared to be cruising home.
That was until Gareth Anscombe, Matt Symons and Cruden all slid over the whitewash as the Chiefs drew level in an enthralling finale.
The Chiefs made an attacking start and kept the hosts entrenched in their own territory early on, but Cruden was unable to make the pressure pay as he squandered his first attempt from the kicking tee; but his opposite number, Potgieter, made no such mistakes as he shot the Bulls into the lead.
Dave Rennie's men were soon on the scoreboard as they worked their way through the phases and just when the attack seems dead, Cruden slipped a pass to Muliaina, who wrong-footed the Bulls backline to cross in the first try of the match.
Potgieter attempted to restore the Bulls' lead with a drop-goal, but when his kick was charged down, Chiefs centre Andrew Horrell kept the ball alive and raced down the middle of the field.
Horrell neatly offloaded to Messam, who took the ball at pace before racing home the Chiefs' second try and this time, with two failed attempts from the tee behind him, Cruden added the extras to give the visitors a 12-3 lead.
When the touchline judge came on to report a clean out by Asaeli Tikoirotuma on Victor Matfield, Potgieter brought the Bulls within six before temporarily returning down the tunnel as the medics followed up his complaint of a problem with his left eye.
Ludeke's side continued to test the Chiefs' defensive capabilities and found in chink in their armour on the half-hour mark as their driving maul charged over the whitewash, with flanker Stegmann claiming the try, which Potgieter failed to convert on his return.
The Chiefs thought they had a third try just before the break when Cruden's dink through was briskly collected by Muliaina but his attempted tap backwards into the path of debutant Anton Lienert-Brown, who dove excellently to touch down, was adjudged to have gone forwards.
With the TMO denying the try, referee Craig Joubert brought play back for a Chiefs penalty, which Cruden slotted over with ease before Potgieter ensured the Bulls went to the break within one as he bisected the posts with a penalty of his own.
The Bulls made a rampant return from the interval and earned their reward four minutes as Joubert awarded them a penalty try and yellow carded Matt Symons for dragging down the maul.
With the Chiefs on the back foot, the hosts took full advantage as Basson pounced on a loose ball to race in a third Bulls try, which Potgieter converted to extend their lead to 13 points.
Three-cap Springbok Potgieter put further distance between the sides on the hour mark as he slotted home his fourth penalty of the afternoon.
As the clock ticked toward 70 minutes, the Chiefs attacked from deep, going through the hands, with replacement Anscombe featuring twice before crossing the whitewash and converting his own try.
Potgieter struck a fifth penalty to give the Bulls what appeared to be breathing space, before Symons and Cruden both raced over the whitewash to bring the Chiefs within two points.
Anscombe held his nerve to level the scores with the conversion in conversion in overtime as the Chiefs took home three points, having added the bonus-point try.