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Rugby

Undisciplined Blue Bulls blow it

29 April 2018 - 00:00 By KHANYISO TSHWAKU

A reality check in the form of a glow-in-the-dark shirted Highlanders unit arrived in Sunnyside and reminded the Bulls of the improvement they still need before they can be considered championship material.
They were their own worst enemies from a discipline perspective and sharpshooter Lima Sopoaga punished them accordingly.
The back-up All Blacks pivot collected 19 points and landed an 82nd-minute penalty to deny the Bulls a fourth consecutive win.
John Mitchell's side had chances to extend their lead at various points, but were punished for not taking their opportunities.
The Bulls would have had a bigger half-time lead if Jesse Kriel had decided to go for the line instead of shovelling a poor pass to Warrick Gelant two minutes past the hooter.
In a first half of two distinct quarters, the Highlanders took the opportunities that came their way, but the Bulls roared back.
Highlanders fullback Fletcher Smith was at the heart of the Bulls and Highlanders tries. His deft chip put All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith into space for a good fourth-minute touchdown.Fletcher Smith found himself on the wrong side of the law 18 minutes later when he held Gelant back after Kriel's grubber caught the Highlanders defence flat-footed. Referee Glen Jackson had no option but to yellow-card the fullback and award the Bulls a penalty try.
The Bulls didn't try to outgun the visitors, but the Highlanders also had the brawn to match the Bulls' physicality.
On the half-hour mark, Teihorangi Walden's pass was smartly intercepted by Handre Pollard, who sprinted 40m to the line.
But the Bulls paid for Kriel's error as Sopoaga's 43rd-minute penalty narrowed the gap to a point before the Smiths (Ben, Aaron and Fletcher) combined for a wonderful coast-to-coast try from the restart.
With the Bulls off the boil, Sopoaga extended the Highlanders' lead to nine points before Jason Jenkins's 57th-minute try narrowed the deficit to two points.
The Bulls somehow conspired to gift Sopoaga a fourth penalty five minutes later and had to spend the rest of the last quarter searching for the equalising try.
It eventually came from Kriel in the 75th minute, but the Bulls' lack of discipline reared its head. When Jackson pinged them for an offside penalty just before the hooter, Sopoaga dished out his worst kick from 44m, but it was enough to creep over the bar.
Bulls (14) 28
Highlanders (10) 29
Bulls - Tries: Penalty try; Handre Pollard, Jason Jenkins, Jesse Kriel; Conversions: Pollard (3);
Highlanders - Tries: Aaron Smith, Fletcher Smith; Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2); Penalties: Sopoaga (5)...

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