Chiefs run away from Bulls in Rotorua

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22 May 2015
Chiefs run away from Bulls in Rotorua

The Chiefs overturned an early deficit to claim a significant 34-20 Super Rugby victory over the touring Bulls in Rotorua on Friday.

The Chiefs outscored their visitors five tries to three to yet again underline their credentials as title contenders and simultaneously put a huge dent in the Bulls' play-off hopes.

Outstanding performances from scrumhalf Augustine Pulu - who score twice - plus Damian McKenzie, Liam Messam and the Chiefs front row set up a crucial win that represents a huge step towards a home play-off.

The feel-good story of the game however was the performance of veteran lock Ross Filipo, who was brought into the Chiefs side at the last minute as an emergency replacement but turned back the clock with a barnstorming 70-minute display, playing a hand in three of his team's tries.

The scores were locked at 15-all at the interval with the teams scoring two tries apiece in a high-paced, entertaining opening half.

Tries from Bulls backs Jan Serfontein and Bjorn Basson gave the visitors an unexpected early lead but the Chiefs replied with excellent scores from skipper Liam Messam and winger Bryce Heem.

Two tries after the break from Pulu handed the advantage to home side although a late from Bulls replacement forward Arno Botha made for a tense finish.

Tim Nanai-Williams came off the Chiefs bench to race over after the final hooter to add some shine to the scoreboard and leave the Bulls empty handed.

Chiefs' pivot McKenzie opened the scoring off the kicking tee but this team soon trailed as the first try came against the run of play. Basson hacked a loose ball upfield and when Hosea Gear failed to cope with the bobbling ball, Serfontein pounced for a soft try.

That put a spring in the Bulls' step as they plied the pressure and were rewarded with a second try after Serfontein's grubber bounced awkwardly for Heem, who chose to bat the ball away in-goal, only for it to fall straight into the path of Basson.

Handré Pollard added the conversion and then a penalty. At 15-3, the Bulls were cruising but the reply from the Chiefs was scintillating.

First Messam muscled the ball onto the chalk from short range before an amazing try from way down town that featured almost every player in the Chiefs team handling the ball saw Heem cross in the corner.

It was anyone's game at the break but Pulu's brace in the space of two minutes left the Bulls with a mountain to climb in the final quarter.

A nifty show-and-go down the blindside opened the way for the Chiefs' scrumhalf to score before a brilliant break from McKenzie and more good work from Filipo set up his second.

Two more conversions from McKenzie meant the Chiefs were up 29-15 but a yellow card to Sam Cane for his team's spoiling tactics at the breakdown gave the Bulls a sniff.

And they made the numerical advantage count with Botha crashing over after a textbook lineout and maul drive.

Crucially though, Pollard missed the conversion left his team outside of losing bonus point.

Typically, the Chiefs kept the pedal down in the dying moments and Nanai-Williams raced clear after the buzzer to add a nail in the Bulls' coffin.