When the Bulls beat the Lions to book their place in the Super Rugby quarter-finals, supporters winced at the prospect of a second trip to New Zealand in as many weeks and cringed in anticipation of their heroes being flogged by the Hurricanes.
But such fears proved to be unfounded as the Bulls came out swinging in Wellington, reproducing the touring form that had deadlocked the Highlanders and Blues as they chased the Canes all the way to the final whistle in a 35-28 reverse.
As the scoreline suggests, the margins were very tight. The Bulls had a wee bit more of the possession and territory, but the Hurricanes made 4 more carries and 3 more kicks.
Close contests often go the way of the team that makes the fewest errors, and in this quarter-final it was the Bulls’ miscues that fanned the Hurricanes attack.
The benefit was a slower game (only 29 minutes ball in play) but a total of 23 handling errors by the Bulls and 16 turnovers conceded built the Canes a platform to strike. And the hosts made the most of 10 scrums to produce 7 line breaks, 13 offloads and 4 tries.
Though the Kiwis tackled with less efficiency (87%), their defence was more assertive, racking up 14 dominant hits while converting 7 tackles into a change of possession and a victory that locked in a trip to the semi-finals.
Match stats from the Cake Tin:
- Points: HUR 35-28 BUL
- Tries: HUR 4-3 BUL
- Goal-kicking %: HUR 86-100 BUL
- Possession %: HUR 48-52 BUL
- Territory %: HUR 48-52 BUL
- Ball in play: 29 minutes
- Ball Carries: HUR 96-92 BUL
- Metres run: HUR 609-539 BUL
- Metres per carry: HUR 6.3-5.9 BUL
- Line breaks: HUR 7-3 BUL
- Tackle breaks: HUR 6-5 BUL
- Passes: HUR 127-119 BUL
- Good Passes: HUR 105-99 BUL
- Offloads: HUR 13-9 BUL
- Rucks won: HUR 66-65 BUL
- Rucks lost: HUR 4-1 BUL
- Mauls won: HUR 2-2 BUL
- Turnovers conceded: HUR 10-16 BUL
- Tackles made: HUR 103-115 BUL
- Tackles missed: HUR 18-15 BUL
- Tackle-completion %: HUR 87-89 BUL
- Dominant tackles: HUR 14-11 BUL
- Tackle turnover: HUR 7-1 BUL
- Turnovers won: HUR 1-4 BUL
- Kicks from hand: HUR 26-23 BUL
- Metres kicked: HUR 730-568 BUL
- Metres per kick: HUR 28-25 BUL
- Handling errors: HUR 17-23 BUL
- Penalties conceded: HUR 6-7 BUL
- Yellow cards: HUR 1-0 BUL
- Red cards: HUR 0-0 BUL
First phase stats:
- Lineouts won: HUR 9-11 BUL
- Lineouts stolen: HUR 0-0 BUL
- Scrums won: HUR 10-5 BUL
- Scrums lost: HUR 0-0 BUL