The Force got back to winning ways when they won a try-less battle of the boot contest 15-9 against the Bulls at a wet and rainy nib stadium in Perth on Saturday.
The result means that they Bulls failed to secure a victory on their tour of Australia and New Zealand. No South African team has won in Australia and New Zealand yet this season. The Bulls have not won in Perth Western Australia since March 2010 and this is the first time in Super Rugby history that the Bulls have had back to back try-less results.
Former champions the Bulls have now played 10 matches this season and won just three. They have drawn one match and lost six. The Bulls are however still in second place in the South African Conference. The Force on the other hand have played 9 matches and won 6. The result moved them up to second place in the Australian conference above the Waratahs. The Force have a bye next week they travel to South Africa for matches against the Cheetahs and the Stormers before returning home to face the Lions.
The Bulls return home to Pretoria where they will host the Cheetahs and Stormers and then a bye. The victory keeps the Western Force on track for the play offs as they moved up to fourth overall making them the top wildcard team. The Force have never reached the finals, but moved one step closer when they notched their sixth win from nine matches this season on the back of the boot of South African flyhalf Sias Ebersohn and another strong defensive effort.
Ebersohn converted all five of his penalty kicks in a dour struggle where genuine try scoring opportunities were rarely created. In slippery conditions, both teams spent much of the match kicking for field position and handling errors were common. Neither side really threatened to score a try, but the Bulls made a late bid to steal the win when they attacked strongly in the last couple of minutes, only to concede a penalty for not releasing the ball.
The Bulls started brightly enough, dominating early possession and posting the first six points of the match through the boot of Jacques Louis-Potgieter. However, the home side started to claw their way back when Ebersohn converted his first penalty in the 26th minute, and by half-time the Force led 9-6. Two more second-half penalties to the Force saw them put a nine-point gap on the Bulls, but Handre Pollard converted in the 63rd minute to close the gap to less than a converted try.
In the 65th minute, the Bulls won a penalty close to the try line, but it was reversed for a shoulder charge from Jacques du Plessis on Force captain Matt Hodgson. 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.”
Final Score W.Force 15 (9) Bulls 9 (6)
Pen – S.Ebersohn 5
Pen – J. Potgieter 2, H.Pollard