Marco van Staden (Getty Images)
Auckland – The Bulls kept their hopes of a playoff spot alive with a 22-all draw against the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
The Blues, who led 10-8 at half-time, had a chance to win the game at the death but flyhalf Harry Plummer’s penalty attempt sailed wide.
The Blues scored three tries through prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi, lock Scott Scrafton and No 8 Akira Ioane. Flyhalf Harry Plumber added two conversions and a penalty.
The Bulls replied with three tries of their own by loose forward Hanro Liebenberg, wing Cornal Hendricks and flyhalf Manie Libbok. Libbok, standing in for the injured Handre Pollard, was also on target with two conversions and penalty.
The opening half was an underwhelming affair as the match was played with heavy rain prominent throughout and there were plenty of unforced errors.
To their credit, both sides gave the ball plenty of air but the atrocious conditions meant the error-ridden nature to this game continued until the end of the match.
The opening quarter was evenly contested and the sides were deadlocked at 3-3 after Libbok and Plummer traded early penalties but the game came alive midway through the half when Liebenberg gathered a pass from RG Snyman before crossing for the opening try.
Libbok failed with the conversion attempt which proved costly as the Blues responded with a try of their own in the 25th minute from Tu’ungafasi. Plummer added the extras which meant the home side held a slender 10-8 lead at half-time.
The Blues made a fine start to the second half when Scrafton scored from close quarters shortly after the restart but the Bulls struck back in the 53rd minute when Hendricks showed his class with a well-taken try.
The Blues needed a response and that came 10 minutes later when Ioane crossed for his try after a powerful run off the back of a scrum and Plummer’s conversion meant the hosts were holding a 22-15 lead.
Five minutes before full-time Libbok glided through a gap in the Blues defence before scoring next to the posts. He slotted the easy conversion to draw the sides level at 22-22.
On the stroke of full-time, Plummer lined up a penalty but his kick was wide of the mark and they had to settle for the draw.
In next weekend’s Round 17 action, the Bulls travel to Dunedin to face the Highlanders (Friday, June 7 – 09:35 SA time), while the Blues visit Brisbane to take on the Reds (Friday, June 7 – 11:45 SA time).
Tries: Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Scrafton, Akria Ioane
Conversions: Harry Plummer (2)
Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Hanro Liebenberg, Manie Libbok
Conversions: Libbok (2)
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons Leni Apisai, 1 Alex Hodgman
Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Lua Li, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Tanielu Tele’a
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Andre Warner, 22 JT Jackson, 23 Divan Rossouw