Vodacom Bulls 16-21 Glasgow Warriors

Vodacom Bulls 16-21 Glasgow Warriors

Glasgow Warriors made history in Pretoria this evening, as a heroic, totemic effort saw Franco Smith’s men lift the BKT United Rugby Championship title after a 21-16 victory over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

Tries from Scott Cummings, George Turner and Huw Jones, allied to a flawless kicking display from George Horne and a Player of the Match-winning performance from Matt Fagerson, ensured the trophy would be coming home to Glasgow.

In front of a partisan crowd of over 50,000, the home side were the ones to make the perfect start. Johan Goosen made no mistake from a penalty fully 55 metres out on the angle, giving the Bulls a 3-0 lead with a minute gone.

Physical from the start, both sides swiftly went in search of the game’s opening score. A Huw Jones grubber was covered well by Kurt-Lee Arendse at one end, whilst Kyle Steyn was off his mark quickly to deny a probing Sergeal Petersen dart.

Goosen would strike his second penalty of the evening with 15 minutes on the clock to the delight of the Bulls faithful, with the hosts looking to press home their advantage. Only some titanic defensive work from Zander Fagerson and Rory Darge denied Wilco Louw in the corner, the TMO ruling in Glasgow’s favour upon review.

The breakthrough would come just moments later, as the Bulls made their territorial advantage count. Marco van Staden’s carry close to the whitewash proved too powerful for the Glasgow defence to stop, Goosen converting for a 13-0 lead after 26 minutes.

Back came the Warriors in free-flowing fashion, Sebastian Cancelliere silencing the Loftus crowd with an interception and break that took the winger deep into Bulls territory, before Steyn was held up just short. Some suspect handling from the hosts at the breakdown saw the Bulls escape, but the Warriors were well and truly in the hunt.

Momentum continued to grow for Franco Smith’s men, and on the stroke of half-time that momentum was made to count. Matt Fagerson’s thundering charge towards the line saw the pack in position, with brother Zander, Jack Dempsey and Jamie Bhatti all piling on the pressure. Cummings was the man to make the final carry, the second-rower burrowing over for a score to silence Loftus once more, Horne converting to leave the score at 13-7 to the hosts after the opening stanza.

The Warriors emerged from the dressing rooms intent on raising the level yet further, a Dempsey charge through midfield setting the tone just moments into the second half. Steyn and Jones would threaten in the wide channels, but the Bulls defence held firm.

Instead, it was the hosts who opened the second half scoring, Goosen adding a third penalty on 51 minutes to extend the lead to 16-7 in favour of the men from Pretoria.

That advantage would last all of two minutes, however, as the travelling Warrior Nation made themselves heard. A penalty dispatched to the corner saw the maul go to work, Turner the man to rumble over for the score and spark the roar from the men in black. Horne converted, and the gap was down to just two points.

The home crowd were stunned, and they were muted yet further with 17 minutes to play. Jamie Dobie’s incision allowed Steyn to charge into the 22, before superb work from Sione Tuipulotu and McKay kept the ball alive. Horne and Jordan’s switch back to the short side worked wonders, as Steyn duly sent Jones over the whitewash for the simplest of finishes. Horne added the extras, and Glasgow held a 21-16 lead inside the closing quarter.

Glasgow’s tails were well and truly up, and the bench was on its feet just moments later, as a shuddering hit from Jones saw Dempsey pick up the loose ball and hurtle downfield, racing over from 60 metres to touch down. Yet the officials cut short the celebrations, as a TMO intervention saw the score ruled out for a tackle off the ball by the finest of margins.

Undeterred, it was the turn of the Warriors defence to stand tall. A bone-crusher of a hit from Turner on Louw cut short any attacking momentum from the Bulls, a feat made even more remarkable by the fact it came off the back of a 15-phase defensive set.

Phase upon phase of pressure continued to come. Phase upon phase of pressure was repelled.

Then came Glasgow’s last stand, and what a stand. With back-to-back penalties kicked to the corner by the home side, to a man the Warriors refused to yield. Scott Cummings and Matt Fagerson led the resistance, and when the maul hit the deck, the only sound on the high veldt was referee Andrea Piardi’s whistle and the roars of jubilation from those in black.

The sight of captain Steyn hoisting the trophy aloft was one of true beauty for the Warrior Nation. New heroes made. New legends crowned.

We are Warriors. We are champions.

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