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Late drama as Bulls secure URC semi-final spot with win over Sharks

By PA
Cornal Hendricks of the Vodacom Bulls during the Castle Lager Lions Series match at the Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa. Picture date: Saturday July 17, 2021. (Photo by Steve Haag/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chris Smith kicked a last-gasp drop-goal to send the Bulls into the United Rugby Championship semi-finals with a dramatic 30-27 victory over the Sharks in Pretoria.

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The sides were locked at 27-27 and heading for extra time when Smith split the posts with the clock approaching 84 minutes.

It had been a tight affair for the most part, with the sides tied at 13-13 at half-time following tries for Madosh Tambwe and Bongi Mbonambi.

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Marcell Coetzee and Cornal Hendricks went over early in the second period as the Bulls looked to have taken a decisive grip on the match, but the Sharks responded through Jaden Hendrikse and Sikhumbuzo Notshe before Smith’s late intervention.

Curwin Bosch opened the scoring from the tee in the fifth minute and it was the Sharks who made most of the early running.

However, it was the Bulls who crossed for the game’s opening try in the 13th minute, with Canan Moodie’s interception putting the hosts deep in Sharks territory. Although Moodie was shoved off the ball by Makazole Mapimpi on the brink of scoring after chasing down his own kick, Tambwe was on hand to finish the job.

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Smith added the extras, but the Bulls’ advantage lasted only four minutes, with Mbonambi going over from a driving maul and Bosch converting.

Two more Smith penalties and another for Bosch sent the sides in level at half-time, as execution let both teams down in their respective pursuits of a second try.

Coetzee then crashed over following a period of pressure from the Bulls on the Sharks’ line early in the second half, and there was daylight between the sides when some excellent hands created the opportunity for Hendricks to touch down. Smith converted both for a 27-13 lead.

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The Sharks fought back with a Hendrikse try just short of the hour mark that Bosch converted and continued to probe until Notshe went over for a score that opened the door for the fly-half to restore parity with six minutes to play.

However, after some patient work in the Sharks’ 22, the ball found its way to Smith in the pocket to send over a match-winning drop-goal in front of the posts.

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