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Bulls scrum denies Highlanders

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Lynn McConnell     07 Jun 2019     Getty Images

The Bulls fared slightly better, moving to second place in the South African Conference and fifth place overall in the competition.

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The Highlanders, who now sit in 10th place having shared the points three times this season, had wanted to play the game at pace but the Bulls scrum power vitally slowed the game down to their pace during the final 20 minutes to take the sting out of the home team's attack.

Instead they were forced into a dogged defence of their goalline in the face of a multitude of scrums that finally allowed the Bulls to equalise.

The last five minutes became turnover torture for both sides as they attempted to get into position to secure the winning advantage.

Having called the tune for the first 50-odd minutes, the Highlanders ended having made 130 tackles to 102 for the visitors, but the home team were unable to take of their 506 metres gained compared with 363 for the Bulls.

The pressure was on from the outset as the Highlanders looked to dominate early.

No sooner had centre Rob Thompson burst out of a ruck with the ball, to set up the chance for halfback Aaron Smith to lob a kick into the box, than fullback Josh McKay was able to chase and take advantage when the Bulls were unable to control the ball to grab the ball and score.

It appeared the Bulls had struck back immediately in the 14th minute when from a penalty kick to the corner they secured the ball and while they were pushed back in the maul, hooker Schalk Brits, who was outstanding until forced to leave the field injured just before halftime, broke to midfield but in trying to set up the ball in the goalmouth the ball was knocked on resulting in a try awarded to lock Jason Jenkins being rescinded.



Inaccuracy by the Bulls denied them chances and the Highlanders were quick to take advantage and in the 21st minute, a missed touch for the Bulls saw wing Tevita Li give first five-eighths Josh Ioane the chance to run hard into space. Flanker James Lentjes was twice involved in the support play along with Smith, but it was a well-placed chip kick by second first-eighths Patelesio Tomkinson sat up nicely for wing Waisake Naholo to run through to score the try.

The Bulls did better with their response a second time, as they made the most of a Highlanders mistake when turning ball over in the backline. Centre Dylan Sage put a kick up and Naholo opted to let it bounce. That saw him undone by the bounce and Bulls fullback Divan Rossouw was able to grab the ball to score.

Consecutive penalties conceded by the Bulls allowed the Highlanders to set up a lineout in the 22m area. In moving the ball, the move broke down with the ball going to ground. However, Thompson hoovered it up, running at speed to penetrate and then finding McKay on his shoulder to take the pass to score his second.

Again, the Highlanders allowed the Bulls an immediate response when second five-eighths Burger Odendaal broke the defence. He was scragged just short of the goalline but prop Lizo Gqoboka took the ball forward to set up a ruck. This time Jenkins wasn't to be denied in his drive over the line to score.
Relishing the dry conditions both sides ran the ball throughout the third quarter but it wasn't until the 53rd minute that the first change came to the scoreboard.

It followed a chip into the Bulls 22m area by Ioane but it was Odendaal who got the bounce. However, the defensive momentum meant he was carried back over the goalline by Li. It appeared the ball had been lost and the Highlanders had scored however the TMO saw a Bulls hand touch the ball down a fraction earlier.

But a solid Highlanders five-metre scrum allowed the ball to be moved to a ruck and from that Smith fired one of his traditional long passes to replacement flanker Shannon Frizell and he slipped the ball to Naholo who scored his second.

The Bulls then mounted a 10-minute assault on the Highlanders line as five metre scrum followed five metre scrum, yet the line held until finally, replacement hooker Jaco Visagie was fed into space by his captain Pollard to draw the scores level.

Scorers: Highlanders
24 (Josh McKay 2, Waisake Naholo 2 tries; Josh Ioane 2 con) Bulls 24 (Divan Rossouw, Jason Jenkins, Jaco Visagie tries; Handre Pollard 3 con, pen). HT: 19-14