Force rise to third after win against Bulls
April 26, 2014
The Bulls' Jacques-Louis Potgieter is crunched by Force prop Pek Cowan
© Getty Images
The Western Force were left singing in the rain after producing their trademark grit in a 15-9 win over the Bulls in Saturday night's Super Rugby clash in Perth.
On a wet and slippery night, a perfect five-from-five penalties from Sias Ebersohn was enough to lift the Force over the line, with the result catapulting the Perth-based franchise into third spot on the table.
The Force were made to defend grimly in the last 10 minutes, with players bravely putting their bodies on the line time and time again to deny the Bulls' surge to the line. Brynard Stander typified the Force's efforts, with the substitute flanker left with blood streaming from his head after contesting several desperate breakdowns in the dying minutes.
The Force defended well to keep the Bulls tryless in Perth (video available in Australia only)
Although the Force came away with the win and improved their work at the scrum, their line-outs remain a worry, with a number of throws being pilfered by the Bulls. However they have next week's bye to work on any issues before their two-game tour of South Africa.
The first half was akin to a game of chess, with both sides employing a kick-heavy game plan in their bid to gain valuable ground. With the consistent rain making for slippery conditions, it was all a matter of who was going to blink first in the AFL-like kick-to-kicks.
It was the Bulls who erred - on multiple occasions.
Fullback Jurgen Visser made the first genuine blooper of the night when he stepped outside his own 22m as he kicked for touch. Fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter was the next to falter when he dropped a high ball in his own 22m, while Visser made another error when he grassed Sias Ebersohn's short chip. Each mistake gave the Force excellent field position, but they couldn't come close to the try line as the Bulls' defence held firm.
Three penalties to man-of-the-match Ebersohn at least gave the Force a 9-6 edge at the break, and the scoreline read 12-6 when the fly-half banged over another one shortly after the break.
With the rain holding off early in the second half, the Force started to employ more of a running game. But it was still the high ball that was paying the biggest dividends, with the Force almost crossing in the 58th minute when winger Nick Cummins created a spillage and his team-mates pounced on the loose ball. Although the try didn't eventuate, another penalty to Ebersohn extended the Force's lead to nine points.
That gap was reduced to six in the 63rd minute, but the Force wouldn't be denied victory in front of 14,227 screaming fans.
Force flanker Matt Hodgson said it was a pleasing way for his team to head to the bye.
"It was a big win for us," he said. "They came out firing, I think they wanted to get one before they went home and we had to nullify that. We had a lot of discipline in that second half and played a good kicking territory game."
Bulls skipper Victor Matfield said it was a frustrating end to a tough tour.
"In these conditions it was very hard to hold onto the ball," he said. "You have to do your basics right, we gave them territory and from there they got penalties. It is all about decision making and we are making wrong decisions at critical times and it is costing us wins."