Force snatch win over luckless Bulls

The Western Force came from a long way behind to snatch a thrilling 15-14 win over the Bulls in Perth on Friday night.

Down 14-3 at half-time and staring down the barrel when still trailing by four points and with the Bulls in possession with just two minutes to go, the Force scored the winning try through rugby league convert Ryan Cross in the 79th minute.

Cross had struggled all night after a heavy early knock, but was the man for the occasion as the Force capitalised on their opponents being a player down in the dying minutes.

With a try on out wide, a Matt Hodgson pass to Luke Holmes slipped through the latter’s hands, but fortuitously rebounded straight to Cross, who dived across in the corner for the try that gave the Force their first home win of the season and took their record to 5-3 in a big boost to their play-off hopes.

Their second successive last-minute loss left the Bulls with a 2-6 record after a horror tour of Australia and New Zealand that failed to produce a win from four matches and has left their title defence hanging by a thread.

Force coach John Mitchell admitted the win wasn’t pretty, but couldn’t fault the endeavour of his players.

”It was an incredible effort by the boys,” he said.

”We cost ourselves with too many free balls, but we stuck at it and earned it through pressure.

”It was an ugly win, but a good one.”

In an error-riddled game marred by a plethora of turnovers, the defending champions all but did enough in the second half to secure the win.

The Force dominated possession late in the game and attacked strongly, but the Bulls held up and inevitably secured the turnover, until Cross’s try snatched the win from them.

The Force opened the scoring in the 15th minute, when Cameron Shepherd gave them a 3-0 lead with a penalty.

But the Bulls struck back in the 19th minute, with a try though Bryan Habana.

The Force’s Matt Giteau had appeared to make a try-saving tackle on Akona Ndungane as he closed in on the line, but the explosive Habana crossed out wide just seconds later and Derick Hougaard completed the conversion to take a 7-3 lead.

Ndungane looked set to add another try in the 23rd minute after chasing down his own kick, only to inexplicably choose to pass when he should have attacked the tryline.

Just seconds from half-time, the Bulls struck what appeared a crucial blow when a strong Wynand Olivier tackle broke up a Force offensive move and enabled teammate Pedrie Wannenburg to then steal a pass by the home side.

Wannenburg broke away and then handed to Habana, who crossed for an easy try.

Hougaard made the conversion as the half-time hooter sounded to give his side a 14-3 lead.

However, the Force climbed back into the match straight after the resumption, with Giteau grabbing the ball from the breakdown and diving over for his side’s first try of the night in the 42nd minute. — AFP



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