Cook saves Bulls blushes

Jean Cook scored a late try as the Bulls came from behind to beat the Force 36-26 in Pretoria.

Morne Steyn scored a try within the first minute but that was the Bulls highlight package for the next 70 minutes until replacement flank Jean Cook scored from a maul to give the Bulls a match-winning lead and Werner Kruger got the bonus point try into injury time.

The Bulls led 14-9 at halftime and extended the lead to 19-12 before a Steyn pass was intercepted for a Force seven pointer.

The Bulls still didn’t seem to be taking the Force seriously and on 52 minutes turned down a penalty from in front. It was a poor decision that could have cost them victory. However, the Force faded in the final few minutes to finish with nothing for a courageous effort.

The Force seemed to have done enough to get a losing bonus point when they defended 20 phases of Bulls attack to force a Bulls knock on with just 20 seconds to play. They then conceded a free kick from the scrum and the Bulls played their get out of jail card to claim a fourth try and a bonus point win.

The victory is on the board, as are the five league points. That reads far more impressive than the Bulls performance.

Arno Botha was very good, replacement loosie Cook enjoyed a decent debut, Steyn had his moments and wingers Bjorn Basson and Sampie Mastriet had good games but there was little to cheer from the rest of the Bulls, whose forwards were not dominant and whose backs continue to run too laterally to pose any attacking threat.

It could be that the Bulls didn’t give the Force the necessary respect after the Australian franchise lost to Super Rugby newcomers the Kings a week ago. I hope that is the case because if the Bulls were switched on then it doesn’t bode well for their season, especially when they travel.

The winners certainly played like a team that may challenge for a top six place, but not a top four.

Former Cheetahs flyhalf Sias Ebersohn impressed for the Force and his 16 points included a 58 metre penalty and two drop goals.

By Mark Keohane