Chiefs storm back to grab draw with Bulls
The Chiefs have come from behind to secure an unlikely 34-34 draw against the Bulls in Pretoria this morning.
Having trailed by 16 points with 11 minutes to play, the Chiefs put on a stunning attacking display in the final 10 minutes to pull it back with tries to Gareth Anscombe, Matt Symons and Aaron Cruden.
Coach Dave Rennie will be ruing a woeful 50 minutes in the middle of the game, where the Bulls were dominating territory and forcing mistakes.
Substitute Gareth Anscombe gave the Chiefs a sniff with 11 minutes to play, finishing off a stunning run of play which started inside the Chiefs own 22m.
Anscombe, Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams exchanged neat passes on the right wing in little space, including a delightful basketball pass from Pulu which set Anscombe free for the try.
Anscombe kicked the conversion, reducing the deficit to nine points with 10 minutes remaining.
Potgieter added another penalty, but then Symons gave the Chiefs further hope with a try with four minutes remaining.
Replacement hooker Mahonri Schwalger found Pulu with a trick lineout 10m from the try line, and after taking it close, Symons did the rest. Anscombe missed the conversion, which proved costly.
Then it was time for co-captain Cruden to step up.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma broke free up the middle of the field with time almost expired, and then found Cruden on the inside.
Cruden found his way to the corner and just pressed the ball onto the try line chalk.
That meant Anscombe had to slot a conversion inches from the left sideline, having missed an easier kick three minutes earlier.
With nerves of steel, Anscombe slotted it down the middle to secure the Chiefs an unlikely draw.
Earlier, Mils Muliaina opened the scoring for the Chiefs in the 13th minute, finishing off a ruthlessly efficient attack.
Having won the ball back after a Bulls knock-on inside their own 22m, the Chiefs rumbled up field, making several yards every time they ran the ball up.
Aaron Cruden then opened a gap up for Muliaina with a pin-point pass, and the veteran did the rest to claim his first try since returning to New Zealand rugby.
The Chiefs were in again five minutes later, with co-captain Liam Messam finishing off a swift counter-attack as the Bull defence became as brittle as a jenga pile.
On attack it was a different story for the Bulls, as they found territory easy to come by and camped out inside the Chiefs half.
Flanker Deon Stegmann had the Bulls first try of the match after 30 minutes, as the pressure on the Chiefs defence finally told.
The Bulls superior lineout gave a solid base for the maul five metres from the line, and Stegmann was the man with the ball as they crossed the line.
Springbok legend Victor Matfield was causing havoc for the Chiefs at lineout time, and Chiefs hooker Rhys Marshall was overthrowing all of his targets.
Jacque-Louis Potgieter made the most of some Chiefs ill discipline, slotting three first half penalties, while Cruden was wonky with his kicking, slotting only one of his three first half penalty chances.
After the break the Bulls were back inside the Chiefs half, and made that pressure pay early on.
After winning their own lineout just outside the Chiefs 22m, the Bulls forward pack steam rolled over the Chiefs forwards, before being pulled down just short of the line.
Referee Craig Joubert awarded a penalty try, and sent Chiefs lock Matt Symons to the bin.
They were in again four minutes later when winger Bjorn Basson created a bit of individual magic on the left flank.
After stepping around teenager Anton Lienert-Brown, Basson put in a grubber kick before chasing it down and scoring in the corner as Messam was unable to collect the awkwardly bouncing ball.
Chiefs 34 (Mils Muliaina, Liam Messam, Gareth Anscombe, Matt Symons, Aaron Cruden tries; Cruden 2 con, pen, Anscombe) Bulls 34 (Deon Stegmann, penalty try, Bjorn Basson tries; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 2 con, 5 pen). HT: 15-14