Pollard strike saves Bulls blushes

Date published: March 21 2015

Handré Pollard was the Bulls hero once again as his sixth penalty secured a 25-24 win over the Force at Loftus Versfeld.

The Springbok had a fine afternoon off the tee, landing seven kicks out of eight as his side relied on his production.

The Force actually outscored the Bulls three tries to one but couldn't secure the win, Adam Coleman's late indiscretion handing Pollard the chance to win it.

Soft in defence and lacking any attacking threat, the Bulls were disappointing at home against a Force side that had lost four of their five matches before Saturday's game.

In the end the power of their pack was the difference but it's difficult to see the three-time champions making much progress this season based on the inefficency of their backline play.

Alby Mathewson's input played a major role in the Force's bright start, notably when he drew the defence to set a galloping Coleman free for the line with the game's first try. 

Loftus Versfeld isn't known for it's silence but there was a hush around the ground after the Force's surprise score, coming either side of penalties from Pollard.

Had it not been for Marcel van der Merwe binding on the arm of his opposite man the Bulls scrum would have been a source of points and territory for the home side, who looked well on top in that area.

The Force though played with huge endeavour early on, controlling the possession but just unable to find an end product.

Finally some territory enabled Pollard to add a third penalty with half-time looming and all momentum suddenly with the home side as the Force's discipline started to become a bother.

Mafi was penalised for hands in the ruck on the stroke of half-time to give Pollard another shot at the posts, but he couldn't take it as the Bulls led 9-7 at the break.

A bizarre try then gave the Force the lead, when Luke Burton's penalty bounced off the post. The Force were quick to react and hounded the Bulls into coughing up the ball right on their own line, Jacques du Plessis defenceless as Sam Wykes poached and scored.

Desperate for some control the Bulls turned to their rolling maul and put the Force down to 14 men with a yellow card for Coleman after multiple infringements.

That situation went from bad to worse for the Force with another yellow card, this time for Tetera Faulkner, as the Force clung on and the Bulls surprisingly kept it tight despite their numerical advantage before eventually scoring from close range through Van der Merwe.

Great enterprise from the Force put them back into contention but Burton couldn't find the posts with his latest penalty attempt, no fortunate post deflections this time, as the Bulls held out.

Their failure to score however with the Force down to 13 men will have infuriated Frans Ludeke and their fans. 

Two more penalties from Pollard then put some daylight between the two sides going into the final ten minutes.

The Force though admirably stuck at it and struck back with a try from Kyle Godwin, just reward for some persistent attacking in their hosts' half with Sias Ebersohn's conversion making it 22-21.

The late drama then unfolded with Ebersohn's penalty giving the Force the lead before Coleman's dangerous tackle on Pollard, the Bulls fly-half dusting himself off and then landing the winning kick.

The scorers:

For Bulls:
Tries: Van der Merwe
Cons: Pollard
Pens: Pollard 6
Yellow Card:

For Force:
Tries: Coleman, Wykes, Godwin
Cons: Burton 3
Yellow Card: Coleman, Faulkner

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morne Mellett, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Piet van Zyl, 23 Jurgen Visser

Western 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.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins/Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea.

Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)