Bulls hold off fast finishing Crusaders. By Mark Ella

It was always going to be a great match when two of the strongest Super Rugby teams faced each other at Loftus Versfeld and the Bulls didn't let their fans down when they defeated the Crusaders 32-30 on the weekend.

The match was played in two halves with the Crusaders dominating the first half by winning the contest at the breakdown making life difficult for the Bulls to get into the game.

The Crusaders went into the change rooms at half time leading by only a narrow margin 13-9 which didn't reflect their ascendency having scored the only try up until then when captain Kieran Read ran a terrific line to bust the Bulls defense in the 7th minute of play.

All Blacks No.10 Daniel Carter playing in only his second game of rugby since he badly injured his groin in last years RWC struggled to put away three crucial penalties which could have ultimately won them the game.

New Zealand teams have the self belief that they can win in any country and rugby field and they showed their intent by consistently beating the Bulls to the breakdown in the first half and in reality they should have had a greater lead at half time.

It was a great display by the Crusaders who have won a record seven Seven Super rugby Championships but as usual the Bulls were kept in the match by the boot of their Springbok No.10 Morne Steyn who kicked a penalty goal from 45 metres out on the stroke of half time to trail the Crusaders 13-9.

The second half was the reverse of the first with the Bulls forwards lifting the tempo and challenging the Crusaders at every aspect of the game particularly at the breakdown and very quickly the game changed in the Bulls favour.

In the first half with the weight of possession going the Crusaders way they threw the football wide at every opportunity in an effort to run the big Bulls forwards around the field but the Crusaders had trouble getting on their outside in the second half.

In fact the Crusaders let themselves down by not adapting their game in the second half and it didn't take long for Steyn to edge them closer when he kicked his fourth penalty two minutes into the second half to be a point behind 13-12.

After sustained pressure from the Bulls forwards on attack near the Crusaders 22 metre line they were rewarded for their efforts when CJ Stander put prop Dean Greyling into open space who then threw a big dummy which completely bamboozled Crusaders full back Israel Dagg and put the Bulls in front for the first time 19-13.

After Steyn kicked another two penalties their second and final try to centre Wynard Olivier after 69 minutes of play came about after a superb chip kick from Steyn metres out from the Crusaders try line which bounced in a number of directions before Olivier finally fell on.

With the Bulls in complete control of the match the game looked all over after 70 minutes with the Bulls cruising to a 32-16 lead but to their credit the Crusaders were not going to sit and watch the Bulls ride rough shod over them when Carter sent an inside pass to Zac Guildford to score under the posts two minutes later.

At 32-23 with 8 minutes of play left the Crusaders sent flutters through the Bulls fans when replacement three-quarter Tom Marshall scored for the Crusaders and converted by Carter with only minutes left on the clock.

But the Bulls held on with Read dropping the football two and a half minutes into extra time to give the Bulls a much deserved victory 32-30 and continue the pattern of close games in this years Super Rugby competition.

Matches like the Crusaders and Bulls brings out the best of what rugby is all about, fast open rugby played by thirty players committed to play attractive entertaining rugby and just what the fans want to see.

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