Winning start for Bulls

DEFENDING champion Northern Bulls and seven-time winner Canterbury Crusaders launched their 2010 Super 14 title bids with bonus point victories.

DEFENDING champion Northern Bulls and seven-time winner Canterbury Crusaders launched their 2010 Super 14 title bids with bonus point victories.

The Pretoria-based Bulls whipped last season's bottom team Central Cheetahs 51-34 in Bloemfontein, while Crusaders had a storming 32-17 win over Otago Highlanders in Christchurch.

Other weekend winners were Western Stormers, Australian heavyweights ACT Brumbies and NSW Waratahs and last year's finalists Waikato Chiefs and Wellington Hurricanes, both of New Zealand.

The Cape Town Stormers opened their campaign with a 26-13 away win over Golden Lions in Johannesburg, while two-time champion, Brumbies downed Western Force 24-15 in Perth.

The Waratahs sunk fierce interstate rivals Queensland Reds with a converted try in the final minute to snatch a 30-28 win, and Stephen Donald landed a last-kick penalty to snatch a 19-18 victory for Chiefs over Coastal Sharks in Durban.

Hurricanes walloped Auckland Blues 34-20 away.

After conceding a try within the opening 20 seconds Bulls began their pursuit of a third title within four years with a six-tries beating of Cheetahs.

Highlanders replacement flyhalf Michael Hobbs lifted his side to within one point of Crusaders with 12 minutes to play before Canterbury, the most successful franchise in Super rugby history, burst clear with two late tries.

Former Wallaby skipper Stirling Mortlock became the first player to reach 1000 Super Rugby points in the Brumbies' win over Force.

Donald converted a Jackson Willison try two minutes from full-time to give 2009 runners-up Chiefs victory over Sharks, who finished a man short after hooker Bismarck du Plessis was sin binned.

Auckland Blues' new signing Stephen Brett was hero and villain scoring one try only for his intercepted pass to present Hurricanes with a turning point try in the second half. - AFP

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