DURBAN (Reuters) – Handre Pollard struck a last minute penalty as the Bulls returned to winning ways with a narrow 19-16 victory away over the Sharks at King’s Park in Super Rugby on Saturday.
It was a scrappy victory but an important boost as the Bulls were hammered at home by Waikato Chiefs just seven days earlier but have now climbed above the Sharks in the standings, albeit by a single point.
All the tries came in the second half as Daniel du Preez and Andre Esterhuizen scored for the home team and Jesse Kriel went over for the Bulls.
But the boot of Bulls captain Pollard proved the difference as he kicked four penalties and a conversion while Robert du Preez slotted two penalties for the Sharks.
The tempestuous clash saw rival hookers Schalk Brits and Akker van der Merwe red carded after throwing punches at each other in the maul and an ensuing grappling contest between the two. Both face suspension for coming games.
The game laboured through the first half, as both teams struggled in the humidity, and delivered just nine points. The Sharks should have been ahead but had an early score annulled by a controversial television match official decision.
Pollard misjudged the bounce of the ball as he was chasing back to cover a kick heading to touch in the eighth minute.
But instead of going out, the ball bounced in-field to allow Makazole Mapimpi to collect and feed Daniel du Preez to go over.
But referee Mike Fraser, after initially awarding the try, asked for confirmation that the ball had not gone out and despite replays proving far from clear, TMO Christie du Preez decided the ball had touched the line and no try was given.
It meant the spectators had to wait until 30 seconds into the second half for the first try as Du Preez went over when the Sharks took advantage of a Bulls error. The visitors snatched back the lead as centre Burger Odendaal burst through two tackles to set up Kriel in the 52nd minute.
A Pollard penalty had the Bulls 16-11 up with 10 minutes left but Esterhuizen’s try in the corner brought it back to 16-16 with Robert Du Preez’s conversion from a tight angle just fading off target.
The Bulls won a scrumming penalty with a minute remaining to allow Pollard to deliver the winning kick.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)