Sportal.co.nz - (8/05/2010)
Francois Hougaard's try after the final hooter helped the Bulls clinch a late 40-35 Super 14 victory over the Crusaders to seal a home Rebel Sport Super 14 semi-final after a breath-taking encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
The defending champions looked to be heading for defeat in Pretoria for the first time in 17 games after tries by Brad Thorn, Andy Ellis, Sean Maitland and Ti'i Paulo put the visitors on track for victory.
Crucially, for the Crusaders they picked up two bonus points which could help them in their semi-final quest.Dan Carter also kicked 16 points, but his opposite number Morne Steyn, who netted 25 points, had an even bigger influence with the boot, especially in the dying stages.
His total tally added to Hougaard's brace and a Victor Matfield score eventually proved crucial as Frans Ludeke's men snatched a late win in their final match at their 'home' ground.With football's World Cup finals in South Africa and Loftus being one of the venues, the Bulls will now play their remaining games at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
And they handed their fans a memorable send-off with win number 18 at their regular home field.They took an early lead through Steyn, who landed a penalty from close to the halfway line after their opponents were penalised for dangerous tackling.
The visitors hit back after 10 minutes, though, with the first try of the game - Gerhard van den Heever having the ball ripped from his hands in midfield and hooker Paulo then setting up Thorn to score.Carter converted easily, but another long-range Steyn penalty helped keep his side in the mix.
Carter showed excellent feet to set up a second try for the New Zealanders when his little shimmy in midfield fooled two defenders, before he laid the ball on for Ellis to cross easily.The All Blacks first five-eighths landed the straightforward conversion, which was followed by a crucial point of the first-half - the yellow-carding of Danie Rossouw for a high tackle.
But Steyn was determined not to be outdone by his opposite number landing a dropped goal from almost 50 metres out to cut the gap down to five.Another breakaway from the Crusaders led to a third try - Maitland the benefactor of good running from his backs collecting the final pass on the right to dive over with Carter failing to add the additional points.
The hosts still refused to give in and then emphatically turned defence into attack to land their opening try and in the process shift the momentum of the game.Fourie du Preez stole the ball at the breakdown and sent Hougaard racing away down the left to score.
Steyn surprisingly missed the conversion and then horribly skewed his next penalty wide, but got his side back on track by cutting the gap to two with another solid three pointer.Then came a moment of magic from Rossouw who redeemed himself with a fine off-load to his captain Matfield to easily run in another Bulls try.Steyn added the extras to send the home side into the break 24-19 ahead.
After the restart Carter had a relatively simple chance to put points on the board for his side straight away, only to send his penalty narrowly wide.However, the Crusaders managed to keep up the pressure and were rewarded with a bonus-point try when Paulo forced his way over under the post.Carter sent over the conversion and then a dropped goal either side of a Steyn penalty to help the visitors remain in front on the hour mark.
Another penalty from Steyn then looked to have sealed the game as their opponents struggled to get any rhythm going heading into the latter stages of the game.That was until Van den Heever was yellow carded for a spear tackle on Tim Bateman allowing the Crusaders to retake the lead with five minutes to play thanks to Carter's penalty.Another drop from South Africa No.10 Steyn looked to have again clinched it, but Carter fired over from 56 metres to turn the game on its head.But Hougaard had the final say and was played in by Bandise Maku to score the winning try.
Scorers:Bulls 40 (Victor Matfield, Francois Hougaard 2 tries; Morne Steyn 2 con, 5 pen, 2 dropped goals) Crusaders 35 (Ti'i Paulo, Brad Thorn, Sean Maitland, Andrew Ellis tries; Dan Carter 3 con, 2 pen, dropped goal). HT: 24-19