A rugby ball isn’t round, and psychological preparation and a team’s determination play an important role – and those factors combined to make nonsense of Rugbyvaria’s assertion that this weekend’s Super Rugby results seem mostly predictable.
Both Friday’s matched were an upturn for the books. First the Bulls, after only one win in 12 previous matches against the Blues, hung on for a gusty 22-all draw in a match where the home side had more than 60% of the possession and the territorial field position in Auckland.
The Bulls earned two log points and are still in the race to the play-offs.
♦ Then, playing at home, the Waratahs surprised the Brumbies by beating the favourites 20-15. Their bonus point helped the Rebels to a share of first place on 34 points in the Australian Conference, but the Brumbies, also on 34 points, have a match in hand.
The Waratahs were full value for the win against a side that dominated possession but defended poorly and conceded twice as many turnovers as the Waratahs, whose defence was outstanding with only 12 tackles from 157 attempts missed. The Rebels also spilled the ball a number of times during a good build-up.
♦ The Bulls victory was built on their good defence, something that let them down against the Brumbies last weekend, and also on their attack despite the handling stats are also stacked in the Blues favour. They gained 358 metres with 126 carries compared to the Bulls 245 metres from 74 carries.
On defence, the Bulls missed only 17 tackles from 156, a success rate of 89%. In contract to this fine defending, the Blues missed 14 from only 92 attempts, a success rate of 84%.
However, the Bulls will have to improve their handling and option-taking if they hope to advance to the play-offs. But in their defence, it was a typical wet rugby day in New Zealand although a team should be able to adapt at this level.
The game went down to the wire, with the Bulls never in the lead after the homes side scored their first try in the 24th minute to carry the 10-8 lead into halftime.
The Bulls drew level with a goal by Manie Libbok four minutes from time, and then Blues flyhalf Harry Plummer missed a penalty after the final hooter after the Bulls ha nearly botched their chances through conceding some late penalties.
Blues (10) 22: Tries: Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Scrafton, Akria Ioane. Conversions: Harry Plummer (2). Penalty: Plummer.
Bulls (8) 22: Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Hanro Liebenberg, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Libbok (2). Penalty: Libbok.