Bulls 61 Chiefs 17

The Chiefs had no answer to the magnificent Bulls at a deafening Loftus Versfeld, succumbing 61-17 in a record-shattering Super 14 rugby final this morning (NZT).

It was party mode in Pretoria as the South African franchise lifted their second crown, a ritual slaughtering decided by halftime when they led 34-7.

Springboks superstars Fourie Du Preez and Bryan Habana scored four of the Bulls' eight tries while Morne Steyn kicked 19 points as the Bulls' juggernaut reputation at home was reinforced in no uncertain manner.

It was the highest score and biggest winning margin in a Super rugby final, surpassing the ACT Brumbies' 36-6 defeat of the Sharks in 2001. The Brumbies had also previously scored the most points, in their 47-38 defeat of the Crusaders in 2004.

A Chiefs side playing in their first final appeared intimidated by the braying crowd of 52,000 and couldn't respond to the irrepressible play of the hosts, who finished the regular season as top qualifiers and proved themselves with dominant performances both today and in their semifinal defeat of the Crusaders last weekend.

They dominated possession through a world class lineout led by Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha while a staunch blue defensive line ensured the Chiefs struggled to free their strike runners, something the Springboks-laden hosts were able to do regularly.
Nobody was more influential than veteran halfback Du Preez, who was the catalyst for the Bulls' first three tries, while the Bulls' first-half passion saw them win the breakdown area hands-down.

Aside from a small period after halftime, the Chiefs were never in the contest against opponents who have advanced to a multi-faceted playing style.

It was a performance that will send a warning to all international teams this year, with the Bulls likely to provide the bulk of the South African team to host the British and Irish Lions and contest the Tri-Nations.

Chiefs heads were down at the fulltime whistle, their crushing defeat ending a season in which they won a record 10 games and played some inspired rugby.

They actually survived an early onslaught and responded with the first try, defying the run of play in the seventh minute.

First five-eighth Stephen Donald counter-attacked brilliantly after fielding a kick 70m out, linking wit h Lelia Masaga to send the winger under the crossbar.

It silenced the crowd for only about a minute, with the Bulls' heady response about to begin.

Du Preez couldn't be stopped after tapping a free kick 5m from the line and virtually from the kickoff the star halfback was at it again from 40m out after Chiefs hooker Aled de Malmanche turned over possession. De Malmanche was assisted from the field, his head having collided heavily with the hard turf.

Habana had his first and the Bulls' third try in the 15th minute via a neat Du Preez grubber kick, in the process moving past the 35 tries of Breyton Paulse which had been a South African Super rugby record.

The Bulls' try-scoring then slowed but not their points-gathering as Steyn slotted a trademark dropped goal and penalty to ex tend the lead to 27-7.

Any faint hopes the Chiefs may have held were snuffed out on the stroke of halftime by poacher-supreme Habana, who anticipated quick hands from Kahui and was unchallenged after intercepting from 60m out.

A Chiefs revival threatened after the break when captain Mils Muliaina scored from a neat Donald inside ball but - after penalties were traded - the Bulls rampaged continued when their skipper Victor Matfield leapt over a ruck to dot down.

Bulls centre Jaco Pretorius bombed a certain try when spilling the ball over the line but midfield partner Wynand Oliver made amends soon afterwards as they hammered home their advantage.

The half-century was raised with eight minutes on the clock when dynamic No 8 Pierre Spies intercepted from 70m out and had too much pace for Chiefs speedster Sosene Anesi while replacement lock Danie Rossouw had the final say with a try in the final minute.

Bulls 61 (Fourie Du Preez 2, Bryan Habana 2, Victor Matfield, Wynand Oliver, Pierre Spies, Danie Rossouw tries; Morne Steyn 2 pen, 5 con, dropped goal, Burton Francis con) Chiefs 17 (Lelia Masaga, Mils Muliaina tries; Stephen Donald pen, 2 con). Halftime: 34-7.

- NZPA