Bulls book URC home semi-final as Stormers falter

Bulls book URC home semi-final as Stormers falter

The Bulls will host Leinster in the United Rugby Championship semi-final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria next Saturday after holding their nerve in a tense quarter-final against Benetton, but the Stormers’ hopes of progressing to the top four for a third consecutive season were dashed by Glasgow Warriors in Scotland.


The team from Pretoria beat their visitors from Italy by 30-23, and later the Capetonians went down 27-10 against their Scottish hosts. In the two other quarter-finals, both played in Ireland, Munster beat the Ospreys on Friday (23-7), while Leinster were too good for Ulster on Saturday (43-20).


It was a gripping weekend of action with both South African teams showing true fighting spirit, but while the Bulls held on until the final whistle to shut out Benetton – preventing a late draw which would have forced their match into extra time in the dying minutes – the Stormers were outscored three tries to two at Scotstoun Stadium, which brought down the curtain on their campaign.


With defending champions Munster winner their quarter-final, they will host the semi-final against the Glasgow Warriors, and as the top-ranked team on the table at the conclusion of the pool stages, they have the inside lane to host the grand final in Ireland on Saturday 22 June.


The implications of these results were that players from the Stormers were named in the national training squad that will assemble in Pretoria on Sunday.


Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will have to wait to see how things pan out for the Bulls in the next two weekends before the national coaches can select a team for their opening Test of the season against Wales at Twickenham, also on 22 June.


The will host Leinster in the first semi-final on Saturday 15 June at Loftus Versfeld at 16h00, while the clash between Munster and Glasgow will kick off at 19h00 at Thomond Park in Limerick. The winners of those respective matches will meet in the grand final on 22 June.


Bulls hang on in thriller against determined Benetton


The Bulls showed true grit against Benetton in a nail-biting quarter-final at Loftus Versfeld to snatch a 30-23 victory after holding a 17-8 halftime lead, booking a first home URC semi-final in the process against Leinster next week.


It was a match of inches with the difference on the scoreboard in the end being two extra conversions and a penalty goal by the hosts after both teams scored three tries apiece.


The Bulls came out firing, scoring their first try in in the first minute compliments of Springbok speedster Kurt-Lee Arendse, but Benetton struck back with a penalty goal nine minutes later to reduce their deficit to four points, although the Pretoria outfit threatened to score further tries on a few occasions, which would have put them firmly in the driving seat in the early stages of the match.


The hosts’ determined efforts on attack paid off again in the 20th minute with their second try following some good forward pressure before they spread the ball wide, which paved the way for Arendse to force his way through the defence for an encouraging 14-3 lead.


Benetton hit back with intent for their first try in the 31st minute, but unfortunately for the Italians the conversion went wide. The Bulls responded with a penalty goal by Johan Goosen in the dying minutes of the first half, which saw them take a 17-8 halftime lead.


Benetton were a force to reckoned with in the second half as they retained possession and attacked at will, applying immense pressure on the hosts, but they were held out by the Bulls’ defence for most of the third quarter. Both sides added penalty goals in the opening 10 minutes of the half, but the Bulls still had an edge on the scoreboard leading 20-11.


The visitors finally broke through in the 58th minute with their second try to narrow the gap to two points, but the hosts fought back hard with their third and final try by David Kriel on the hour mark. The Italians were unphased by this and kept on fighting, which paid off with their third five-pointer five minutes later to make it a four-point game once again with 14 minutes left to play.


Goosen inflated the Bulls’ lead to seven points with his third penalty goal with six minutes left on the clock, and to their delight Benetton made a critical error by knocking on the ball in front of the tryline with three minutes to go, which could have levelled the scores to forced the match into extra time. This, however, was not to be, and the relieved Bulls clinched the 30-23 victory to advance to the top four.




Bulls 30 (17) – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), David Kriel. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalty goals: Goosen (3).


Benetton 23 (8) – Tries: Onisi Ratave, Tomas Albanoz, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversion: Rhyno Smith. Penalty goals: Smith (2).


Stormers go down fighting in Glasgow


The Stormers suffered an unfortunate end to their URC campaign against the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium where they were outscored two tries to two, with missed try-scoring opportunities and strikes at goal coming at a high price for the team.


The first half was a tight affair as both teams threw everything at one another on attack and defence, and this showed on the scoreboard with Glasgow kicking two penalty goals, which were the only points on the score board as the teams hit the sheds.


The Stormers, however, will be bitterly disappointed about failing to capitalise on two penalty goal attempts and two try-scoring opportunities.


The early stages of second half were equally hard-fought, and despite Glasgow having a one-man advantage after Salmaan Moerat received a yellow card in the 53rd minute for a dangerous tackle, the Capetonians were able to score first try of the match thanks great team play, which saw Ben Loader (wing) cross the chalk in the corner. The missed conversion, however, allowed the hosts to hold onto the lead by a point.


The Scots struck back immediately with a try from a Stormers mistake from the restart and they managed to convert the turnover into points as they darted in for their first five-pointer, nudging them into a 13-5 lead.


This, however, was short-lived as the Stormers added their second try compliments of Paul de Wet (scrumhalf) after the visitors showed impressive pressure close to the tryline, making it a three-point game with 15 minutes left to play.


The Cape side’s hopes of creating an upset, however, were dealt a big blow in the closing minutes as Henco Venter and Ross Thompson crashing over the chalk by the hosts within five minutes from strong play, which stretched their lead to 27-10, which booked their spot in the semi-final, and saw the Stormers drop out of the competition.




Glasgow Warriors 27 (6) – Tries: Sebastian Cancielleri, Henco Venter, Ross Thomson. Conversions: George Horn (3). Penalty Goals: George Horn (2)

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