VIDEO: Bulls in yet another thrilling draw
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: For the second week in succession to Bulls drew in New Zealand, playing a thrilling 24-all stalemate with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
It follows the Bulls’ equally thrilling 22-all draw with the Blues last week, a rare unbeaten trip in New Zealand.
The Highlanders outscored the Bulls by four tries to three, but the boot of Handre Pollard (three conversions and a late penalty) secured two invaluable points for the Bulls.
The result means the Bulls are well-placed in fifth place, although there are still a full weekend of fixtures to complete.
It means next week’s final-round match against Lions could be decisive to the Bulls’ hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
In contrast, the Highlanders are languishing perilously at ninth on the ladder and could sneak into the top eight with a win over Waratahs next week, should other results go their way.
It was an entertaining affair, played at great pace and with brutal intensity.
However, both teams also made a litany of errors.
AS IT HAPPENED: To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
The Bulls came back from 0-14 down against the Highlanders, at a venue where they have not won since 2007.
While the Highlanders played the game at a frantic pace under the roof of Forsyth Barr stadium, attacks constantly stalled due to turnovers and handling errors.
Josh McKay opened the scoring in the 12th minute when he latched on to Aaron Smith’s chip kick over the defence.
The same tactic worked again 10 minutes later, this time with Sio Tomkinson providing the kick and Naholo the try.
McKay’s second five-pointer came just before half-time, leaving the Bulls trailing 14-19 at the break after tries to Divan Rossouw and Jason Jenkins.
Naholo extended the home team’s lead early in the second half before Jaco Visagie locked the scores at 24-24 with five minutes to go after an offload from Pollard.
Man of the match: Luke Whitelock and Jackson Hemopo were the Highlanders’ most productive forwards, Liam Coltman was not far behind. Aaron Smith, Josh McKay and Josh Ioane were the creative geniuses for the Highlanders. Embrose Papier made the most of a rare start. Then there were those hard-working forwards – Ruan Steenkamp, Rudolph Snyman and Trevor Nyakane. Centre Burger Odendaal had his best game of the season. However, it was flyhalf Handre Pollard who justified the coach’s decision to recall from South Africa to make a massive impact on this game. That is why he wins our award.
For the Highlanders:
Tries: McKay 2, Naholo 2
Cons: Ioane 2
For the Bulls:
Tries: Rossouw, Jenkins, Visagie
Cons: Pollard 3
Highlanders: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joshua Dickson, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Thomas Umaga-Jensen.
Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Marco van Staden, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Johan Grobbelaar, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 JT Jackson.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), James Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)