Thankfully we are at the end of the split round 16. There were two South African games in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Bulls 30 Kings 31
This is a game that is worth watching. Don’t miss the highlights package at least. Yes, it was occasionally messy. It was also a great sporting contest.
The Kings first half dominance pushed the Bulls to attempt to thwart the Kings territory strategy by kicking. This led to some loose handling, messy scrums and ultimately a series of King phases where the ball finally stuck through good hands – try to Mapimpi. It looked good when the dropped ball and knock-ons were avoided.
An end to end try by the Bulls was called back for a (just) late tackle with shoulder contacting the head of Cronje. This cost not only five points but also had lock Jason Jenkins in the naughty chair for ten minutes. Enough for the Kings to pick up the pigs’ effort through the middle. Hard yards were made and fly-half Cronje of all people ploughed through under the posts. It was Bulls 3 Kings 17 before the Bulls were back to 15 men.
Argentinian referee Federico Anselmi evened things up by giving Wandile Mjekevu a yellow card for a (confirmed) late and (almost) high tackle. The Bulls did not make great use of the opportunity. The Kings Cronje risked a kick-pass even though they were down a man. It worked. A nice wide catch by number 6 Cloete, who made a quick pass to the fullback. Malcom Jaer made a great Folau impression working hard over distance to score.
Belatedly the Bulls responded with enthusiastic work through the forwards. Adrian Strauss was highly involved with Jenkins making amends to score with the hooter in the background. A lovely forward try covering distance.
Half time and the home team had plenty of work in front of them. Bulls 10 Kings 22.
It was enough to change the Bulls attitude. They returned the way they left at half time. Three minutes only to score. Another messy scrum at the Bulls 25. A wide ball, lax defence, Gelant breaking the line and brilliant running and footwork by the wing and Matthews scored in the corner. A real winger’s try. The try was successfully converted to bring things to a five-point game.
A Bulls penalty followed – two-point game.
With fifteen minutes to go another yellow card – the Kings lock Lubabalo Mtyanda for cynical play in the ruck. The Bulls ascendency seemed assured. With the penalty the Bulls led for the first time – Bulls 23 Kings 22.
Intelligent play by the Kings worked them into the Bulls 25 while still down a man. Cronje was positioned and took a successful drop kick for the Kings to regain the lead by two points. Another penalty followed and the Kings were back to a five-point game.
The Bulls fans were on the edge of their seats, all 5,000 of them (guesstimate). Enterprising play put the Bulls into an attacking position and replacement hooker Visagie bashed over the line.
It was not enough. A late scrum penalty allowed Cronje, surely man of the match, to boot the final penalty after the siren to win by a single point.
Full Time Bulls 30 Kings 31
Oddly, I am going to miss the Kings. I think their dressing room traditional singing and their team spirit are going to be appreciated by the Celts. Maybe SARU would have done better to put the Bulls in Pro 12/14, splitting the Johannesburg teams (Lions to Super Rugby), and give the Kings time to prove if they can survive. Too late now.
Stormers 52 Sunwolves 15
“Stormers slay the Sunwolves”. “Stuttering Stormers still too good for hapless Sunwolves”. The headlines speak for themselves.
Tries to the Stormers by Viljoen, Senatla, Willemse, and two from Leyds. Who did I miss? Oh, just a hat-trick by Kolbe. Check out the highlights package, if for nothing else the tries are worth watching.
Tries to the Sunwolves Goto and Hino.
The Stormers are if anything in sports tapering mode – where they can afford to back off the work load and be fresh for the finals. It’s doubtful this will help them against the Kiwis but they are doing everything right for now.
For the Sunwolves, the team after the international break looks distinctly more “Japanese”. Their defence was full of gaps and they did not really look like they should be on the same paddock as the Stormers. Let’s hope there is a plan for building and that 2018 can only be better.