PRETORIA, March 2 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Bulls profited from a strong forward display in the second half to defeat Australia’s Western Force 36-26 in their Super Rugby match at Loftus Versveld on Saturday.
Two late tries gave the home side the bonus-point victory, which had looked unlikely when they trailed by seven points going into the final 12 minutes of the game.
The Force had suffered a surprise loss to the Southern Kings in their first game on tour last weekend but were much improved on Saturday and, led by the boot of South African flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, grafted their way into a winning position.
But two pushover tries from Jean Cook and Werner Kruger late on turned the match on its head and provided relief for the Bulls before they head to New Zealand to face the Blues next weekend.
Morne Steyn collected 21 points, including the first try inside two minutes as he burst through a massive gap in the Force defence to run in from 35 metres.
An Ebersohn drop-goal reduced the deficit, before three penalties from Steyn gave the Bulls a 14-9 lead at the break.
The first half had been riddled with errors but there was much better entertainment in the second period.
Sampie Mastriet scored his first Super Rugby try, going over in the corner to extend the Bulls’ lead, before the Force fought back with two tries of their own.
Within three minutes of the Bulls’ score, Angus Cottrell intercepted a wild Steyn pass and jogged in for the try.
Excellent buildup play from Nathan Charles and Chris Alcock set up Toby Lynn for another try for the Force and suddenly they lead 26-19.
The Bulls battled with their set-pieces and failed to create attacking platforms until the final 10 minutes of the game.
After Steyn had added another penalty, the Force were penalised for collapsing the maul and from the resultant penalty the Bulls mauled the ball over the tryline from the edge of the 22, Cook getting the score.
The bonus-point win was completed when Kruger barged his way over the line on the final hooter to deny the Force anything from the match. (Reporting by Nick Said in Cape Town; Editing by John Mehaffey)