The Bulls blew a commanding 26-11 lead shortly after the restart to eventually end all square at 26-all against the Chiefs in a Vodacom Super 14 match in a wet Hamilton on Saturday.
And right at the end they were holding on by their fingernails as the Chiefs made a last-gasp bid for victory when Loki Crichton’s dropped-goal slipped past the right hand upright to leave the scores level.
If the Bulls fail to make the semi-finals remember this result, because the Bulls will be rueing it without doubt.
The three points keeps the Bulls in fifth spot, but now a point behind the Brumbies and having played an extra game. Itâ€™s all uphill from here for the men from the capital. Itâ€™s getting to a stage where the Bulls will start needing favours from other teams to repeat last yearsâ€™ play-off achievement.
Although the Bulls take three valuable points from this game, it should have been five and when the dust has settled on the round-robin section of the competition those lost points could prove vital.
Considering they also failed to get a bonus-point from the match against the Western Flops, that’s three points tossed away on tour so far, not taking the abysmal display against the Blues last weekend into account. The Bulls do not have the luxury of letting opportunities like these continue to slip through their fingers. Especially considering they failed to dominate as usual at Loftus earlier in the competition.
An early try against the run of play, when Habana got his customary intercept, gave the visitors the lead, but the Chiefs never let them get too far away in an entertaining first half that saw Pedrie Wannenburg play out of his skin. Scrumhalf Fourie du Preez also had a fine game, after some early mistakes.
At 19-11 up at the break, the Bulls were in charge and when Du Preez and Wannenburg combined for the Bulls fourth try minutes after the restart it was suddenly a massive 15-point margin.
The Bulls went to sleep immediately and let the Chiefs back into the game immediately when Sam Tuitupou charged the ball and kicked and gathered for a perfect riposte under the poles. The conversion was unbelievably missed from in front and had Stephen Donald – who kicked well otherwise – slotted that the Bulls would be contemplating loss two on the trot on tour.
After the Tuitupou try, the Bulls seemed content to defend their lead and ultimately it back-fired as the Chiefs continued put pressure out wide and clawed their way back into the match.
In the end it was the home team who finished stronger and had Crichton had patience instead of kicking the snap drop, the Chiefs could have been the ones taking five points away as the Bulls wee desperate and may well have infringed.
The Bulls now travel to Brisbane to take on the rubble Reds and anything less than a five point haul there and they may as well kiss their title hopes goodbye.
Try: Mils Muliaina, Sam Tuitupou, Steven Bates
Con: Stephen Donald 1
Pen: Donald 3
Try: Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn, Pedrie Wannenburg
Con: Morne Steyn 3
THE MOMENTS THAT MATTER
79 mins: Bulls get a break again as the Chiefs knock on after several phases. Scrum Bulls. Bulls attack through Du Preez. Keeping it tight. Matfield kicks and gifts the balls to the Chiefs. Habana charges the ball down, but is pinged for offside. Lineout to Chiefs. Hooter goes. Chiefs on attack. Loki Crichton attempts a drop, but it’s wide. It’s all over and the Bulls take three points away to the Chiefs two. Bulls happier after this result as they trudge from the field.
76 mins: The handling errors are mounting, especially with the pressure as the clock ticks down. Chiefs scrum in midfield. Reset a couple of times. Coaches ring the changes to get fresh legs on the park. Donald kicks. Habana replies, but it’s out on the full. Chiefs lineout on the 10m line in the Bulls half.
72 mins: Penalty to Chiefs about 40m out for Bulls coming in from the side at the ruck. But it’s away to the right! Scores still level. (Donald 4/7)
68 mins: It’s all a bit scrappy now, but nevertheless it’s the Chiefs who are on attack. Sitiveni Sivivatu makes a strong run down the the touchline. Set up the ruck and the Bulls are scrambling to get back. Eventually flanker Steven Bates bursts through close in for a good try. The conversion ties up the scores. (Donald 4/6)
64 mins: Weather is affecting underfoot conditions now too, but still the Bulls make a break upfield through first Habana and then Olivier, but when within in inches of the line they lose possession. Chiefs counter and put pressure on Bulls in their 22. But knocked on. Scrum to Bulls.
62 mins: Bulls adopt driving maul to ensure they hold onto possession. Keeping it close, but great work from Marty Holah earns a penalty and the Chiefs run from their own 22. No options. Kick down Roets’ throat. Ruck. Wynand Olivier puts in a superb kick far down field.
57 mins: The wet ball is proving difficult to hold onto. Kick through by Chiefs. Habana fumbles. Scrum to Chiefs. Ball is put deep into the Bulls 22. Bulls try to run it from lineout. Another knock. Chiefs press for the line, but turn it over. Penalty to Bulls 5m from line. Good defence by Bulls.
52 mins: Penalty to Chiefs and this time Donald splits the uprights to reduce the gap to seven points from close in. (Donald 3/5).
46 mins: The Chiefs stun the Bulls with a try immediately from the restart as the visitors pay for relaxing after a great bonus-point score. The ball is charged and Tuitupou kicks ahead and slides over. Donald misses from in front. (Donald 2/4). Rain is pelting down now.
44 mins: From a scrum in the 22, the Bulls burst forward through du Preez, who is having a good game after early jitters. He flips it inside to Wannenburg and the big forward is rewarded for a great effort with a try under the poles. Steyn converts (Steyn 3/5).
43 mins: Second half starts and the rain starts to fall, which will make the ball more difficult to control. Johan Roest fires the ball deep into Chiefs territory. Muliaina retreats, but his clearance kick only makes it just out of the 22.
40 mins: The teams trade some kicks and the hooter goes to bring the curtain down on an entertaining first half that saw the Bulls get into it with a good last ten minutes.
37 mins: The Bulls are using the big men to make hard yards and are awarded a penalty, but Matfield decides to go for the corner. He duly takes the lineout ball, but after a few phases, Akhona Ndungane is bumped into touch. Chiefs knock. Scrum 5m out. Penalty to Bulls. Quick tap and try to Steyn in the corner! He converts his own try with a sweetly struck kick. (Steyn 2/4)
35 mins: The Bulls have upped the ante in the closing moments of this half and Pedrie Wannenburg’s charge is repelled, but the Bulls keep attacking. Wynand Olivier goes for the line, but losses the ball. Scrum to Chiefs.
31 mins: Steyn is then given a chance to reply immediately for the visitors, but his shot strikes the right hand upright and the Chiefs breath again. From the restart Habana is put in space and chips ahead only to be felled by a shoulder charge that is missed by the ref. (Steyn 1/3)
29 mins: Donald slots a penalty to reduce the gap again. (Donald 2/3)
25 mins: Victor Matfield launches a move from inside his own half and sweeps up-field. He off-loads to Jaco Engels, who does well. A ruck forms and the Chiefs are penalised, but du Preez opts for the quick tap and darts past opposite number Byron Kelleher for a score in the corner. Steyn pushes the conversion widee, but the Bulls are back in front.
22 mins: Bulls try to assert some dominance and mount an attack with the forwards, but another knock by du Preez sees the move break down. The Chiefs loosies are hassling the Bulls around the fringes and causing problems.
18 mins: Under pressure the Bulls infringe at the ruck and Donald slots the simple kick for the lead. One they certainly deserve. (Donald 1/2)
16 mins: The Bulls are making too many mistakes to get into their stride and the Chiefs are clearly up for the game and looking very dangerous when spreading it wide. Chiefs attack again and move onto the Bulls 22.
12 mins: Lineout to the Bulls in Chiefs territory, but Fourie du Preez knocks on and the Chiefs gobble it up and dash up field, but another attempted long pass ends in touch with the Bulls again looking vulnerable.
7 mins: Sam Tuitupou makes an aggressive run and the Chiefs stretch the Bulls on defence. Another floated pass from Stephen Donald, but this time it falls safely in fullback Mils Muliaina who darts in in the corner. Donald misses the kick to trail the bulls by two. (Donald 0/1)
4 mins: Chiefs are on attack and have a massive overlap on the right. The Bulls are struggling, but a long pass is spotted by Bryan Habana, who snaps it up and charges 70m for the first score of the game under the poles. Steyn converts to go 7-0 up. (Steyn 1/1).
1 min: Morne Steyn, back in the Bulls starting line-up, kicks-off in this crucial encounter. The Chiefs gather and flyhalf Stephen Donald cleares up towards halfway.
By Andrew Hollely