x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Forlorn Force give mighty Bulls a fright

For the second week in a row, the Pretoria Bulls were forced to dig deep before finally maintaining their 100 per cent record in Super 14.

For the second week in a row, the Pretoria Bulls were forced to dig deep before finally maintaining their 100 per cent record in Super 14. The defending champions beat the Western Force 28-15 yesterday, but a gutsy display from the team bottom of the table meant the leaders were unable to take control until late on.

After scoring 199 points in their first four games, Pretoria edged past the Wellington Hurricanes 19-18 last week, and, yesterday's match was almost as tough, at least for the first three-quarters. They trailed 15-10 until the 57th minute, when Morne Steyn scored a try that he converted himself en route to finishing the game with 18 points. "We gave away too many penalties in the first half," said Victor Matfield, the Bulls' captain. "In the second half we came out and the discipline was good.

"They defended well, but you always take a win on the road." All of the Force's points came from the boot of James O'Connor. Yesterday also saw the Hurricanes lose their fourth game in a row, all to South African sides, and, just like last week, it was a real heartbreaker. Ruan Pienaar, the Natal scrum-half, kicked a 48-metre penalty as the full-time hooter sounded to give the Sharks a 29-26 away victory over Wellington.

"I'm pretty happy when a boy stands up like that to take the kick. I saw him leaning to the left [watching the flight of the ball] and nearly had a heart attack," said John Smith, the Sharks' captain. "It was an exciting game. I suppose they are the ones that take years off you as a player and coach." Pienaar finished the game with 19 points. Lachlan Turner, the New South Wales winger, scored a length-of-the-field intercept try with seven minutes left to help the Waratahs to a 39-32 victory over the Auckland Blues in Sydney. The Blues, leading 32-29, had been on the attack with men unmarked on the outside when Turner struck and raced 90 metres unopposed.

Daniel Halangahu, the fly-half who also scored two tries for the Waratahs, added a late penalty to give the home side the seven-point advantage they held until the end. "The guys hung in there and there were some big plays at crucial moments," said Phil Waugh, the Waratahs captain. "Lachie Turner's intercept changed the whole game and it showed just how tight this competition is. "If you're slightly off, you end up getting beaten and there is a fine line between winning and losing."

"There were a lot of mistakes. We gave up the ball and you can't do that against a side like this," said Keven Mealamu the Blues captain. "I thought we had a good chance there, but we blew it." Meanwhile in England, the Guinness Premiership leaders Leicester enjoyed at 39-19 win at rock-bottom Worcester, with Toby Flood kicking six penalties and converting all three of the Tigers' tries. Bath won their seventh game in a row as they beat Harlequins 24-13 while Nicky Robinson scored all of Gloucester's points in their 19-0 victory over Leeds Carnegie.

There is one game today as struggling Newcastle play their first of three games in seven days when they visit high-flying Saracens. "It is going to push our resources to the absolute limit, but that's just the way it is and we have to get on with it," said Steve Bates, the Newcastle director of coaching. akunawicz@thenational.ae