Bulls round off horror tour with defeat by Western Force
Ben McCalman (L, with ball) attempts to break a tackle from Bull's players during a Super 15 Rugby Union match in Perth on April 26, 2014 - by Greg Wood
The Force have never reached the finals, but moved one step closer when they notched their sixth win from nine matches this season on the back of the boot of South African flyhalf Sias Ebersohn and another strong defensive effort.
It moved the Western Force into second in the Australian conference, while the Bulls, three times Super Rugby champions, have just three wins from 10 matches after a horror tour that saw them lose all four matches in Australia and New Zealand.
Ebersohn converted all five of his penalty kicks in a dour struggle where genuine try scoring opportunities were rarely created.
In slippery conditions, both teams spent much of the match kicking for field position and handling errors were common.
Neither side really threatened to score a try, but the Bulls made a late bid to steal the win when they attacked strongly in the last couple of minutes, only to concede a penalty for not releasing the ball.
The Bulls started brightly enough, dominating early possession and posting the first six points of the match through the boot of Jacques Louis-Potgieter.
However, the home side started to claw their way back when Ebersohn converted his first penalty in the 26th minute, and by half-time the Force led 9-6.
Two more second-half penalties to the Force saw them put a nine-point gap on the Bulls, but Handre Pollard converted in the 63rd minute to close the gap to less than a converted try.
In the 65th minute, the Bulls won a penalty close to the try line, but it was reversed for a shoulder charge from Jacques du Plessis on Force captain Matt Hodgson.
Hodgson said it was a pleasing way for his team to head to the bye.
"It was a big win for us," he said.
"They came out firing, I think they wanted to get one before they went home and we had to nullify that.
"We had a lot of discipline in that second half and played a good kicking territory game."
Bulls skipper Victor Matfield said it was a frustrating end to a tough tour.
"In these conditions it was very hard to hold onto the ball," he said.
"You have to do your basics right, we gave them territory and from there they got penalties.
"It is all about decision making and we are making wrong decisions at critical times and it is costing us wins."