DURBAN – Handre Pollard slotted a late penalty as the Bulls snatched a 19-16 Super Rugby win over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
For large parts of this clash, the Bulls looked to be coming off second best, and yet they displayed greater composure in the latter stages to win a scrum penalty, with Pollard slotting the crucial kick to hand his side another important win.
Based on the nature of what was a scrappy affair, a draw looked likely to be a fair result as the scores were deadlocked at 16-16 heading into the final stages, but Pollard would have the final say.
Early on in this ill-disciplined encounter, Pollard and Rob du Preez had traded penalties, and although the Sharks then thought they had scored the first try through Dan du Preez in the ninth minute, the TMO adjudicated that the ball had gone into touch prior to the score.
Although the hosts would have been encouraged by their start to proceedings, a few errors then began to creep into their game in hot and humid conditions in Durban, while Pollard kicked the Bulls into a 6-3 lead in the 29th minute.
On the balance of play, the Sharks would have wondered how they were not ahead by the time half-time rolled around, but the seven handling errors told the story of an error-riddled opening half from the home side.
However, the Sharks finally strung together a successful attack straight after the restart, with Dan du Preez finishing off an important try to send his side into the lead for the first time.
Yet, just as it looked as if the Sharks might begin to build some momentum, Duane Vermeulen won two key turnovers for the Bulls, while they would score next when Jesse Kriel finished off an excellent try.
Suddenly a bit of spice was added to the occasion, but unfortunately this then degenerated into an ugly brawl between hookers Akker van der Merwe and Schalk Brits, with both players being shown red cards as a result.
Once order was restored, the Sharks ensured there would be a thrilling finish to the encounter when André Esterhuizen barged over the tryline in the 71st minute, which drew the scores level.
However, it would be the Bulls who still found a way to win, while extending an undefeated streak against the Sharks to nine matches.
Scorers: Sharks 16 (3): Tries: Dan du Preez, André Esterhuizen. Penalties: Du Preez (2).
Bulls 19 (6): Tries: Jesse Kriel. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (4).
African News Agency (ANA)