Iol reports the Northern Bulls kicked off their defence of the Super 14 title they won in 2007 with a thrilling 16-9 win over the Western Stormers at Newlands Stadium on Saturday.
While the Bulls trailed 9-0 after half an hour, they scored 16 unanswered points from then on to run out comfortable 16-9 winners.
It was a remarkable turn-around for the visitors considering they are without World Cup stars Victor Matfield and Gary Botha, who’re now playing abroad, while they have a new coach in Frans Ludeke.
“The guys showed a lot of character to come back from 9-0 down,” said Bulls captain Fourie du Preez afterwards.
“All credit to the players – especially as it was our first game without a few key players.”
The Stormers enjoyed the majority of possession in the first period and they made it count with flyhalf Peter Grant slotting three first half penalties which allowed his side to lead 9-7 at the break.
It was a deserved lead as the home side maintained good discipline in the first 40 minutes, not allowing Bulls flyhalf Derick Hougaard one opportunity to kick for goal.
On the other side of the field the Bulls gave away numerous penalties and on three occasions Stormers No 10 Peter Grant kicked the goals. He missed two other opportunities which were from inside his own half.
Grant kicked three-pointers in the 6th, 17th and 27th minutes to put the Stormers 9-0 up and the score could have been more had centre Gcobani Bobo not been held up over the line by du Preez in the 25th minute.
But just when the home fans thought their new-look side under the coaching of former Currie Cup winning coach Rassie Erasmus were going to cause a major upset by beating the defending champions, the visitors from Pretoria struck back on the stroke of half-time with a Bryan Habana try.
The Springbok flyer dived over in the left corner after taking a quick pass from Du Preez and the conversion by Hougaard closed the gap to just two points at half-time.
Habana though was forced out of the game at the interval after injuring his left shoulder when going over for the try.
The Bulls though put the setback aside and pounced on the numerous mistakes made by the Stormers.
The pressure on the home team’s defensive lines grew quickly and it wasn’t long before Hougaard edged his side ahead with two penalties, turning a 0-9 deficit into a 13-9 lead.
And then with just two minutes to go Hougaard slotted his third penalty of the second period to put the score beyond the home team’s reach and ensure his side kicked off the defence of the title they won in 2007 with an away win – The Bulls picking up four points, and the Stormers one.Tweet