Scrappy Bulls beat Force

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Pierre Spies (File)
Pierre Spies (File)
Perth - The unbeaten Bulls got a huge fright from the winless Force before winning their Super 14 clash 28-15 at ME Bank Stadium in Perth on Saturday night.

Few gave the injury-ravaged Force any hope against the defending champions and competition trendsetters, but the home side showed great resolve defensively and led 15-10 going into the last 25 minutes.

The biggest upset of the season loomed on the back of teenager James O'Connor's accurate boot, with five penalties from as many attempts.

However, the Bulls steadied to make it six wins from as many matches this season, with Morne Steyn, who scored 18 points, making up for a couple of uncharacteristic penalty misses with a fine solo try to level the scores in the 57th minute and his subsequent conversion put the Bulls in front.

A Steyn penalty extended the margin to five points, before the Bulls capitalised on the Force being down to 14 men after Ryan Cross was sent off, with Zane Kirchner crossing for an easy try in the 68th minute to all but seal the result as they went 25-15 ahead.

The opening minutes of the game saw the confident Bulls camped inside the Force 22, determined to make an early statement as they searched for any defensive weaknesses.

In the ninth minute, Pierre Spies spun around a Force tackle to cross on the 10th phase as the Bulls went ahead 7-0.

It was a credit to the Force defence that the margin didn't blow out any more, as they repelled a steady stream of sustained Bulls attacks.

When the Force finally got their hands on the ball, they surprised the Bulls with their expansive play and with O'Connor in fine form with the boot, they launched a spirited and unexpected bid for victory.

When O'Connor kicked a penalty from a tight angle after the half-time hooter, the Force actually led 12-10 at the break.

That margin was extended to five points with another O'Connor penalty in the 49th minute, before the Bulls rallied as the Force tired.

Bulls captain Victor Matfield said his side struggled to adapt to the referee early, but was pleased to notch another away win.

"We gave away too many penalties in the first half," he said.

"In the second half we came out and the discipline was good.

"They defended well tonight, but you always take a win on the road."

Force skipper Nathan Sharpe was again frustrated his side had their chances but failed to take them.

"We want the result," he said.

"In the second half the Bulls' experience showed."

In next weekend's Round 8 action, the Bulls travel to Auckland to play the Blues while the Force host the Stormers in Perth.

Teams:

Force:
15. Mark Bartholomeusz, 14. Scott Staniforth, 13. Ryan Cross, 12. James O'Connor, 11. Mitch Inman, 10. David Hill, 9. Chris O'Young, 8. Richard Stanford, 7. Matt Hodgson, 6. Ben McCalman, 5. Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4. Tom Hockings, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Ben Whittaker, 1. Nic Henderson

Substitutes: 16. Pek Cowan, 17. Kieran Longbottom, 18. Luke Jones, 19. Ted Postal, 20. Mark Swanepoel, 21. Sam Harris, 22. Haig Sare

Bulls:
15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Gerhard van der Heever, 13. Stephan Dippenaar, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11. Francois Hougaard, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Fourie du Preez, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Dewald Potgieter, 6. Deon Stegmann, 5. Victor Matfield (captain), 4. Danie Rossouw, 3. Werner Kruger, 2. Gary Botha, 1. Gurthrö Steenkamp

Substitutes: 16. Bandise Maku, 17. Bees Roux, 18. Flip van der Merwe, 19. Derick Kuün, 20. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21. Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 22. Pedrie Wannenburg
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