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Bulls leave it late to secure bonus-point win

PRETORIA (AFP) –

Northern Bulls' Werner Kruger, pictured in action on March 5, 2011

Late tries by forwards Jan Cook and Werner Kruger, pictured in action on March 5, 2011, earned Northern Bulls of South Africa a flattering bonus-point 36-26 victory over Western Force of Australia in the Super 15.

Late tries by forwards Jan Cook and Werner Kruger earned Northern Bulls of South Africa a flattering bonus-point 36-26 victory over Western Force of Australia in the Super 15 Saturday.

Dismissed as no-hopers before the kick-off at Loftus Versfeld stadium, Force maintained a record of being difficult opponents for the three-time southern hemisphere champions with a gutsy showing, and led with nine minutes left.

Replacement flank Cook won a line-out just outside the ’22′ and retained possession in a driving maul all the way to the Force line for a try verified by the television match official (TMO).

Fly-half Morne Steyn, who had another productive evening with 21 points that included a 75-second try, converted to give Bulls a 29-26 advantage before a small crowd.

Another touchdown would give the home team a four-try bonus point and it came two minutes after the hooter when they ran a free kick and prop Kruger barged over beside the posts with Steyn adding the extra points.

So Bulls got the five points they would have targeted against one of the traditionally weaker teams in the annual 15-franchise championship, but they will play better than this and lose.

Well beaten last weekend by debutants Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, the Matthew Hodgson-skippered visitors from Perth will be gutted at getting nothing from a brave two-try performance.

Fly-half Sias Ebersohn, a close-season signing from South African outfit Central Cheetahs, made a telling debut for the Force with two penalties, two conversions and two drop goals.

Slick passing and quickly recycled ruck ball allowed Steyn to go over for a rare Super 15 try and he landed a penalty while Ebersohn slotted a drop goal and two penalties to give the Force a one-point advantage on the half-hour mark.

Bulls wing Bjorn Basson had a try ruled out after the TMO spotted two forward passes, loose forward Hodgson limped off and Steyn succeeded with two penalty attempts to put Bulls 14-9 ahead by half-time.

After another Ebersohn drop goal, new Bulls wing Sampie Mastriet dotted down before a purple Force patch delivered tries from flank Angus Cottrell and lock Toby Lynn with Ebersohn converting both for a shock seven-point lead.

But dreams of a fourth victory for the Australians in seven clashes with the South Africans faded in the closing stages as the home side came back strongly to maintain a perfect start after defeating Western Stormers last weekend.

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