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- 2nd Mar 2013
- KO 15:05
- Ground: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Super Rugby: Bulls tough it out to drain Force
The Bulls survived a mighty scare from the Force as they fought back to overcome the Australian visitors 36-26.
Trailing 22-26 with ten minutes remaining, the men from Pretoria managed to create a rolling maul that allowed Jean Cook to cash in at the tail.
And what had looked like being a shock loss ultimately turned into a bonus-point win when tighthead Werner Kruger crashed over at the end.
The Bulls had come out in good form in the rain and didn't take long to get on the board when fly-half Mornè Steyn backed himself on the right side from 20 metres out. Steyn showed decent pace to go over in the corner but could not convert from the touchline, with the Bulls 5-0 to the good after two minutes.
However the Force struck back on ten minutes following strong work in the air from Nick Cummins. The Wallaby wing rose highest to claim Sias Ebersohn's tester and from the recycled ball the former Cheetahs fly-half was back in the pocket to cut the lead down to two.
The home side soon responded thanks to an initial break from young wing Sampie Mastriet. His line break from halfway led to the Force offending at a resulting breakdown and when referee Jason Jaftha sounded his whistle, Steyn called for the kicking tee to cancel out that earlier Ebersohn drop-goal.
Ebersohn was back on the scoreboard on 26 minutes though after the Bulls backline came offside and when the Force fly-half then slotted a 60-metre shot at goal on the half-hour, suddenly the Australians were one point ahead.
That lead lasted just four minutes though as Steyn made it 11-9 due to captain Matt Hodgson entering a maul from the wrong side.
Steyn did knock over three points on the first-half hooter, but 14-9 soon became 14-12 though only a minute after the restart when Ebersohn slotted his second drop-goal.
The Bulls, who were without Francois Hougaard and Chiliboy Ralepelle for the second-half, then clicked into gear. From Steyn's pass Sampie Mastriet raced into the right corner.
Steyn went from hero to villain seconds after missing his conversion of Mastriet's try when he found a pass swooped upon by Angus Cottrell, who raced clear from 65 metres for the try. Ebersohn's conversion levelled the scores in what was a frantic opening to the second stanza.
The Australians then came close to causing an upset, with Angus Cottrell and Toby Flynn crossing the whitewash within ten minutes of each other, and Ebersohn was on target with both conversions to hand his side a seven-point lead.
The Force held on to their advantage for fifteen minutes until the Bulls made a gutsy fightback.
Steyn succeeded with twelve minutes left on the clock before Cook, who replaced flanker Jacques Potgieter, scored in the 70th minute, with the fly-half converting the try.
The Bulls then finished the match off on a high with prop Kruger scoring his side's bonus-point try at the death.
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com