Hurricanes vs Bulls
47 - 33 to the Bulls
Most people expected this to be a tight game (although many Hurricanes fans wouldn't conceed that they may actually struggle to beat the Bulls!), and it certainly was.
It reminded me of the Cats win against the Crusaders in Round 9. Where the home side looked comfortable at half time, then the visitors stormed back into the game, but the home side regathered themselves to finish strongly and take the game.
The Bulls were up 23-13 at half-time, thanks mainly to the boot of Jannie De Beer. The Bulls really deserved their lead, and had the advantage in possession and territory. As the Hurricanes have done all season they managed to stay in touch thanks to some brilliance from their outside backs, in this case it was Cullen, who snapped up a loose ball inside his own 22, side-stepped the defensive line and ran 80 metres, only pausing to tie the Bulls fullback up in knots with a couple of little body-swerves, and scored untouched.
The first 30 minutes of the second half (which actually lasted 52 minutes in the end, thanks to injuries) was all Hurricanes. They scored two tries, to Holwell and Lilley, and Holwell slotted a penalty as they held a 28-23 lead with 10 minutes to go, and looked like they may hold on to take the match.
The problem was the 10 minutes left on the clock turned into 22 minutes of play. While this was mainly due to injuries it wasn't helped by a pitch invasion from a crazy Bulls fan who was annoyed about the amount of injury time that was being allowed. I guess they are still pretty gutted about losing to the Highlanders last week in the 52 minute!
After Jannie de Beer was hurt in a tackle and had to be taken off in a stretcher (which was about 5 minutes of the injury time) and Bulls got back into the game. A good passage of play saw them camped on the Hurricanes line, and after two or three scrum resets the ref (Stu Dickerson from Australia) good sick of the Hurricanes front row infringing and awarded a penalty try to the Bulls. I watched the replay on this try and I couldn't see the infringing, in fact if anything it looked to me like the Bulls forward may have legitimately scored anyway!
So that put the Bulls back in front 30-28, and the Hurricanes never got the lead back. The Bulls slotted a penalty to make it 33-28, and then scored another try to put the game out of reach at 40-28. To the Hurricanes credit they didn't give up, and then Brad Fleming showed great determination to score in the corner to pull it back to 40-33 (and pick up the four try bonus) but Holwell couldn't add the extras to keep them in touch with the Bulls.
From the last Hurricanes scrum of the game the play broke down and Bulls winger Hannis Venter swooped onto the loose ball and ran in a nice try to close the match, and add a sweet ending to a miserable season for the Bulls.
Interestingly the commentary team named Christian Cullen as man of the match, but no-one from the Hurricanes turned up for the post match interviews so the Bulls coach accepted the bottle of vino on Cully's behalf!
A sad ending to the season for a Hurricanes team that promised so much, but in the end didn't quite live up to expectations. Even though they are currently tied with the Blues on the points table the Blues have a the tiebreak with a better points differential. Of course if the Reds put 60 points on the Blues then that may change, but then the Reds would come away with 5 points and move ahead anyway. (sorry Canes' fans, the Fat Lady is singing!)