Glasgow Warriors will travel home from their South African double-header empty-handed, after the Vodacom Bulls claimed a 29-17 win at Loftus Versfeld this evening.
A try from Ollie Smith, allied to an early penalty try, was ultimately in vain for the visitors, as the home side ran in four tries to claim a bonus-point in front of their home supporters.
Straight from the opening kick-off, the tone was set for a brutally physical encounter. Yet it was the Warriors who earned the early upper hand, a third-minute scrum penalty allowing George Turner and Jack Dempsey to charge into the Bulls 22.
Knowing the need to be clinical, Glasgow couldn’t have asked for a better start, and made the pressure count with just five minutes played. A penalty kicked to the corner allowed Turner to find Ryan Wilson, and the maul proved too much for the home side to halt legally. The penalty try was duly awarded, with Walt Steenkamp sent to the sin-bin for good measure.
Undeterred, however, the Bulls struck straight back in front of their home fans. Physical carrying from the pack sucked in the Glasgow defence, before Arno Botha set a course for the try-line. Whilst the back-rower was chopped down short, Zak Burger was on hand to pick up and dot down for the score, Morne Steyn adding the extras to level the scores at 7-7.
Neither side was taking a backwards step as the collisions kept coming, with Dempsey and Botha to the fore for their respective sides. Duncan Weir’s penalty on 20 minutes was cancelled out by Steyn seven minutes later, tying the scores at 10-10 on the half-hour mark.
With referee Nika Amashukeli happy to award the penalties at any opportunity, an increasingly feisty encounter threatened to boil over as the first half drew to a close. Steyn was surprisingly off-target with a simple attempt from the 22, but the Bulls would not be denied for long. Zander Fagerson’s yellow card after repeated Glasgow penalties saw the Bulls go to the corner, and whilst the power game was repelled initially it was a simple task for Lionel Mapoe to send Madosh Tambwe over for the score. Steyn converted, giving the Bulls a 17-10 advantage at the break.
Coming back after the restart a man down, Glasgow’s game management was impressive in the opening exchanges of the second stanza. Weir and Stafford McDowall’s kicking game kept the Bulls pinned in their own half, killing the clock on the Fagerson yellow card to keep the score unchanged.
That was almost in vain on 52 minutes, however, as Tambwe thought he was in for his second of the evening after regathering a Lionel Mapoe kick to race over the whitewash. The TMO interjected in Glasgow’s favour, though, calling an offside and ruling out the try.
Instead, the Bulls reverted to their trademark power play through the pack, and were rewarded with their third try of the night just before the hour mark. It would be Steenkamp who would eventually collect the short ball from Burger to power over, riding the tackle of Fraser Brown to dive over. Steyn converted, giving the hosts a two-score lead.
To rub salt into the wound, a quickfire sucker punch would come just three minutes later. Phase after phase of possession in the Glasgow 22 eventually paid dividends for the home side, as Cyle Brink piled over for the bonus-point try. Chris Smith hit the post with the conversion attempt, but the Bulls supporters were in no mood to worry.
Yet the Warriors would find a second wind as the game entered the final 10 minutes, with an injection of pace from the bench coming from the young half-back duo of Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson. The persistence was rewarded with 73 minutes on the clock, the Warriors finally unlocking the Bulls defence. A short ball from Sione Tuipulotu sent Ollie Smith through a gap and under the posts untouched, Thompson drop-kicking the conversion to narrow the gap to 29-17.
There was almost one late boost for Danny Wilson’s men, as they came within a TMO check of a losing bonus-point after excellent work from Josh McKay and Tuipulotu. However, the final pass was deemed to have drifted forward, denying Smith a brace and the Warriors a consolation point.
All eyes will now be on the 1872 Cup decider at BT Murrayfield in three weeks time, as Glasgow travel east knowing a victory will be vital in order to secure a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Kick-off 8:00 pm