Hurricanes edge Bulls
The Hurricanes recorded their first win over the Bulls in six years on Saturday, winning 25-20 in a tightly contested battle in Napier.
The Bulls outscored their hosts two tries to one but it would be hard to suggest that the Hurricanes didn't deserve to win.
The home side led 16-13 at the interval but would have been frustrated to only be leading by three points having dominated most of the opening period.
The half-time scoreline completely flattered the Bulls, who had been forced to defend bravely before scoring a soft try just before the break.
Most expected the Bulls tight five to rule the close exchanges but more often than not they were going backwards at scrum time and ultimately that would prove the former champions' undoing.
The momentum swung in the Bulls' favour in the second half and it was the hosts who were made to defend.
In a tense finish, Bulls led by a point going into the final ten minutes but two late Beauden Barrett penalties saw the Hurricanes home.
The Hurricanes were first to cross the whitewash on the quarter-final mark after Barrett sent a pin-point accurate cross-field kick out to Cory Jane, who whipped the ball back inside basketball style to Andre Taylor for a well-executed try.
Barrett added the extras to go with his earlier penalty to leave the Canes 10-0 up at the end of the first quarter.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Barrett exchanged penalties as the Bulls were made to hang on desperately against the free-running Hurricanes, who were enjoying the cheap possession given to them by the visitors' kicking game.
The Bulls kept themselves in the game though with try from full-back Jurgen Visser. A high ball from Potgieter found James Broadhurst wanting as Visser beat him in the air. Potgieter was up in support before offloading back to Visser, who raced home.
With just three points separating the teams, it was anyone's game at half time and a slight change in tactics from the Bulls, who were willing to keep ball in hand after the break, made for a closely-contested second half.
Handré Pollard, on for the injured Potgieter, failed to hit the target with a penalty that would have levelled matters, meaning the scores were unchanged at 16-13 going into the final quarter.
But the Bulls were growing in confidence and sensed that victory in their first game on tour was within reach.
A break out from TJ Perenara and Taylor set up a penalty chance for Barrett though and the Hurricanes fly-half scored the first points of the second half to give the Canes a six-point lead with 15 minutes left.
The Bulls would hit back immediately as Pollard produced a brilliant piece of indivual skill to step inside Jack Lam - who had otherwise played very well - to race home.
The young replacement fly-half converted his own try to give the Bulls the lead for the first time.
The Hurricanes scrum would come to the rescue however, winning a 74th-minute penalty which Barrett landed from long range. And Barrett added another three-pointer after the final hooter to secure the win.
Pens: Barrett 6
Tries: Visser, Pollard
Cons: J-L Potgieter, Pollard
Pens: J-L Potgieter 2
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 Marty Banks
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers
Venue: McLean Park, Napier
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)