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Chiefs fight back for win

Published 22/05/2015

Liam Messam sparked the Chiefs' comeback against the Bulls
Liam Messam sparked the Chiefs' comeback against the Bulls

The Chiefs edged closer to a place in the Super Rugby play-offs after securing a 34-20 bonus-point victory over the Bulls in Rotorua on Friday.

The Hamilton-based franchise found themselves 15-3 down in the opening quarter as early scores from Jan Serfontein and Bjorn Basson put South Africa conference leaders the Bulls into the ascendancy.

But the Chiefs hit back through tries from skipper Liam Messam and Bryce Heem to go into half-time level at 15-15, before a second-half brace of tries from Augustine Pulu and a last-gasp score from Tim Nanai-Williams sealed maximum points for the two-time Super Rugby champions.

Defeat to the Hurricanes last Saturday ended the Chiefs' hopes of topping the New Zealand conference and a second successive defeat appeared to be on the cards as defensive errors allowed backs Serfontein and Basson to cross the whitewash in the opening 12 minutes.

Handre Pollard converted the opening try and added a 13th-minute penalty to put the Bulls into a 15-3 lead but two Chiefs tries in five minutes wiped out the South African side's early advantage.

All Black blindside Messam sparked the comeback when he crashed over the line from a short pick-up and drive, which fly-half Damian McKenzie converted, before slick handling allowed wing Heem to cross over after a sustained period of time in the Bulls' 22.

The Chiefs began the second half brightly and raced into a 29-15 lead when Pulu scored two tries in as many minutes.

The scrum-half brushed off two tacklers to score his first on 53 minutes before a fine break by half-back partner McKenzie allowed him to repeat the feat moments later. McKenzie added the extras on both occasions.

Replacement Pieter Labuschagne reduced the deficit to nine points when a dominant Bulls maul allowed him to barge over in the 72nd minute, but the Chiefs had the final say when Nanai-Williams scored their fifth and final try moments after the full-time siren had sounded.

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