The Bulls smashed the Force 42-20 in Perth on Friday to claim their first win in Australia since 2012. JON CARDINELLI reports.
At long last, the Bulls have won a match Down Under. The victory against the Force brought an end to the Bulls' 11-match losing streak in Australasia. It also marked the Pretoria-based franchise's first win in Australia in four years.
Adriaan Strauss and his charges should also be pleased with the bonus-point win and what it means for their 2016 campaign. The Bulls have started their three-game Australian tour in an encouraging fashion, and the win in Perth sees them extending their lead on the Sharks in the South African group.
The Bulls were easily the better of the two teams on show in Perth. The visitors bossed the breakdowns, and produced several inspired moments on attack.
The Force will lament their impotency from some promising field positions. On countless occasions, they found themselves in possession deep in Bulls' territory. However, the Bulls forwards often beat their Force counterparts to the ruck and effected a timely turnover.
The speed and power of the Bulls forwards was also evident whenever the visitors launched an attack. In the first half, RG Snyman was hit in a tackle but managed to throw a great offload to Hanro Liebenberg. The No 8 then showed his pace to cross the line and give his team an 8-3 lead after 13 minutes.
The moment of the match, however, was in the 24th minute when the Bulls ran 80m to score. SP Marais juggled a bouncing ball in his own 22, and then shaped to kick. Instead of putting boot to ball, he threw a pass to the left where a clutch of Bulls players was well placed to counter-attack.
Bjorn Basson seared down the left-hand touchline, and found Jesse Kriel in support. A neat interchange between Kriel, Arno Botha and Jan Serfontein culminated in a great try for the Bulls No 12. The try extended the Bulls' lead to 15-6.
The Force hit back right away with a try by Matt Hogson. They may have snatched a second five-pointer a moment later had Junior Rasolea taken full advantage of a golden opportunity.
The Force centre intercepted a pass on the hosts' 22m line, and raced downfield. Incredibly, the Fijian was hauled in by Francois Brummer. The Bulls flyhalf raced back to make the tackle, and another defender arrived timeously to hack the loose ball into touch.
The Bulls defence held out to ensure the visitors went to the break with an 18-13 lead. Thereafter, the Bulls began to take control of proceedings.
Brummer nailed yet another penalty goal to steer the Bulls into an eight-point lead. The forwards continued to pressure the hosts at the lineout, and in the 53rd minute, Force flanker Brynard Stander was shown a yellow card for a cynical infringement at this set piece.
The Bulls didn't hesitate to kick the ensuing penalty to touch and set another maul. On the back of that, Serfontein scored his second try of the evening. At 28-13 up, the Bulls were on course for victory.
In the 60th minute, Strauss rounded off a sweeping attacking move to claim the Bulls' fourth try. At this stage, the win looked a certainty, and the Bulls were in a position to secure the try-scoring bonus point.
Strauss scored his second try in the 68th minute to complete the rout. From there, the Bulls did enough to maintain their three-try advantage and finish the game with the bonus point.
Force – Tries: Matt Hodgson, Kyle Godwin. Conversions: Ian Prior (2). Penalties: Prior (2).
Bulls – Tries: Hanro Liebenberg, Jan Serfontein (2), Adriaan Strauss (2). Conversions: Francois Brummer (4). Penalties: Brummer (3).
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ammon Mautauto, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Luke Morohan, 10 Ian Prior, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Subs: 16 Chris Heiberg, 17 Anaru Rangi, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Bulls – 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Lizo Gqoboko, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dries Swanepoel.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images