A 79th-minute penalty from Handré Pollard saved the Vodacom Bulls from a surprise home defeat as they edged the struggling Force 25-24 at Loftus on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The Bulls came into the match on the back of successive victories, while the Force had lost four on the trot. But a torrential downpour prior to kick-off levelled the playing fields, with Pollard once again proving the difference for the home side.
The visitors, through scrumhalf Alby Mathewson and lock Adam Coleman caused the Bulls defence all sorts of problems, but poor goal-kicking and ill-discipline cost them a chance of victory.
The Bulls, after impressive wins over the Sharks and Cheetahs, lacked the intensity shown in those performances and were lucky to make off with the win and four vital log points.
The Force were far the better side during the first 40 minutes, but somehow trailed 9-7 at the break, as three Pollard penalties cancelled out Coleman's try.
They would move into the lead early in the second half in rather perplexing fashion. Luke Burton's penalty attempt struck the upright and fell into the hands of Jacques du Plessis, but Sam Wykes managed to rip the ball from his grasp to drive over for the Force's second try.
However, after giving away a penalty off the kick-off, the Force were guilty of illegally trying to halt the Bulls' rolling maul. Referee Nick Briant grew weary of their tactics and they were reduced to 13 men, with Coleman and Tetera Faulkner being sent to the bin, before Marcel van der Merwe snuck over from close range.
The Bulls, however, were unable to make their advantage count and would score no further points during this period. Two more penalties from the boot of Pollard crucially extended their lead to eight points, before a try from Kyle Godwin set up a nervy finish.
Sias Ebersohn then handed the Force the lead with just two minutes remaining, but only after Coleman was penalised for a tip tackle on Pollard, the Bulls flyhalf stepped up to send the hosts to victory.
Bulls – Try: Marcel van der Merwe. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (6).
Force – Try: Adam Coleman, Sam Wykes, Kyle Godwin. Conversions: Luke Burton (2), Sias Ebersohn. Penalty: Ebersohn.
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Mornè Mellett, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jürgen Visser.
Force – Force – 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images