Pollard kicks 20 points as Bulls storm back
Handre Pollard of the Bulls runs in a try at McLean Park in Napier, New Zealand on April 5, 2014 - by Marty Melville
Stormers, bottom of the southern hemisphere provincial championship, made a sizzling start in Pretoria with two tries giving them a 12-point lead after 20 minutes.
But three Pollard penalties plus a drop-goal at Loftus Versfeld stadium brought the teams level at 12-12 by half-time.
The second half belonged to the hosts as they scored 16 unanswered points to stay in the hunt for a top-six finish and a place in the knockout stages.
Victory lifted Bulls two places to eighth with 28 points, two fewer than sixth-placed Otago Highlanders from New Zealand.
However, the Pretoria side have played up to three games more than their play-off rivals and are long shots to be among the survivors from the league phase.
It was the eighth loss in 11 games for the injury-ravaged Stormers and they are bottom of the combined standings, one point below compatriots Central Cheetahs.
"We controlled the last 60 minutes after giving away two soft tries," said Bulls' veteran skipper and lock Victor Matfield.
"The guys never panicked, stuck to the game plan and our pressure forced penalties, leaving Handre to do the rest.
"I want to single out our full back (Jurgen Visser) and wings (Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson) for special praise. They were excellent in the air and kicked well."
Stormers' skipper and flanker Schalk Burger, deputising for injured centre Jean de Villiers, said the Cape Town outfit must learn to go the distance.
"We were excellent for 30 minutes and then individual mistakes crept in, penalties were conceded and the Bulls accumulated points.
"It was great to be back at Loftus after my lengthy (injury and illness) absence -- but it would have been so much sweeter with a victory."
Burger, the 2004 World Rugby Player of the Year, gave an outstanding performance in the loose before retiring after 58 minutes.
By then, Pollard had kicked two more penalties for an 18-12 advantage and any chance of a Stormers' comeback evaporated 14 minutes from time.
Stormers' defence failed to clear a grubber kick toward the right corner from scrum half Derek Hougaard and Ndungane booted the ball forward and won the touchdown race.
Pollard converted from the touchline and his replacement, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, completed the scoring with a penalty.
Bulls' second-half supremacy was a far cry from the opening exchanges with turn-over ball offering Stormers the chances to run in two excellent tries.
Burger was prominent in the first, scored after a sweeping movement by fly half Kurt Coleman, who converted from in front of the posts.
Centre Juan de Jongh claimed the second try, holding off several Bulls to conclude a passage of play that began with Stormers hooker Scarra Ntubeni dispossessing flanker Jacques du Plessis.
Pollard potted his first penalty on 23 minutes and Bulls' comeback was under way. His 20 points comprised five penalties, a drop goal and a conversion.
The Ndungane try and the Potgieter penalty completed the total for the three-time Super Rugby champions.