The Vodacom Bulls fought back courageously to earn a credible 22-22 draw against the Blues in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
The Kiwi side held a slender 10-8 lead at halftime and although the were behind for most of the second half, the Vodacom Bulls never gave up.
Considering the fact that the men from Pretoria played without the experienced Springbok duo of Handre Pollard and Duane Vermeulen, and a heavy downpour that made handling very difficult, then this will be considered as a very good result for them.
The Blues had a great opportunity to snatch the win right at the end of play, when Vodacom Bulls wing Cornal Hendricks was penalised for a high tackle. Hendricks must have been a very relieved man when he saw how Blues flyhalf Harry Plummer’s sent his penalty attempt well wide.
Although not quite the win they were hoping for, the two points they earned in very difficult conditions will come as a welcome boost for the Vodacom Bulls, whose last success in New Zealand was in 2013 against the Blues at the same ground.
The Auckland outfit went into the halftime lead with a two-point advantage following a try and penalty goal on both sides. Ofa Tuungafasi scored a converted try for the Blues in reply to the opening try of the match scored by Vodacom Bulls flank Hanro Liebenberg. Plummer slotted a penalty goal in addition to the conversion, while Manie Libbok (flyhalf) also slotted a penalty goal for the visitors.
The second half saw much more open play despite the difficult playing Blues lock forward Scott Scrafton barged his way over the whitewash just five minutes after the break, but a few minutes later the men from Pretoria hit back with their second try of the match to level matters on the scoreboard.
Hendricks capitalised on a turnover to score in the corner following a lovely-weighted grubber kick, while Libbok did brilliantly to succeed with the difficult conversion kick.
The two teams continued with their attacking intent and it was the Blues who managed to score their third try through their No 8, Akira Ioane, when he powered his way over the line from a Blues scrum. Plummer added the extra two points to hand the home side the lead at 22-15 with about 15 minutes to go.
However, the visitors refused to give up and were rewarded for their fighting effort when the fleet-footed Libbok waltzed over untouched for their third try. He levelled matters at 22-22 with the conversion.
With just a few second remaining on the clock, and over-eager Hendricks was penalised for a high tackle. However, Plummer pulled his penalty kick wide and the match ended in a stalemate.
The Vodacom Bulls conclude their Australasian tour next Friday when they tackle the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Blues – Tries: Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Scrafton, Akira Ioane. Conversions: Harry Plummer (2). Penalty goal: Plummer.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Hanro Liebenberg, Cornal Hendricks, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Libbok (2). Penalty goal: Libbok.