Vodacom Bulls 40-34 Glasgow Warriors

Vodacom Bulls 40-34 Glasgow Warriors

A Glasgow Warriors comeback for the ages fell just short in Pretoria this afternoon, as the Vodacom Bulls held off Franco Smith’s men to claim a 40-34 victory at Loftus Versfeld.

Tries from Matt Fagerson, Kyle Steyn, Sebastian Cancelliere and Duncan Weir, in addition to Weir’s last-minute penalty, means that the Warriors take two points out of a titanic tussle, keeping them at the top of the standings with two rounds to play.

Under the baking sun in Pretoria, it was the Warriors who struck the early blow. After riding some early pressure from the home side, a penalty allowed Tom Jordan to send his team into the Bulls 22 for the first time. It was then left to the speed of thought from Grant Stewart and Fagerson, the latter brilliantly bulldozing through the last defender to touch down. George Horne added the extras, and Glasgow had a 7-0 lead with just eight minutes on the clock.

The home side immediately went in search of a response, Kurt-Lee Arendse’s footwork almost seeing the winger clear before being pulled into touch. The Glasgow pack then turned in a huge defensive shift on their own line, holding up the oncoming maul and winning a try-saving turnover to a roar of approval from the Warriors bench.

Another try-saving effort was soon to follow from Horne and captain Kyle Steyn, the duo combining to cancel out a Bulls overlap and bundle Canan Moodie into touch five metres out. The skipper would find himself in the sin bin moments later, however, as a mis-timed tackle on Akker van der Merwe saw Steyn shown a yellow card by referee Ben Whitehouse.

It was from the resulting penalty that the Bulls would open their account, in a manner similar to that of Glasgow’s opening score. Van der Merwe himself was the beneficiary, the hooker collecting an offload from a front peel and squeezing over in the corner. Chris Smith added the extras from the touchline, tying the game at 7-7 after 16 minutes of play.

The Bulls were by this point enjoying the majority of territory and possession as they sought to make the numerical advantage count on the scoreboard. Van der Merwe was almost in for a quickfire double as he was held up over the goal-line, but as Steyn prepared to return to the field the second try arrived. Cameron Hanekom was the man to barge over, Smith adding the extras for a 14-7.

Restored to a full compliment, Glasgow went on the offensive, hammering away at the Bulls defence on the home side’s 22. Horne would take advantage of a tackler being slow to roll away, making no mistake from the tee from in front of the posts to narrow the deficit to 14-10 at the half-hour mark.

Smith would reply in kind with six minutes left of the half, before the home side had the final word on a breathless opening stanza. Arendse was the catalyst, the South African international breaking clear in midfield from turnover ball and racing into the Glasgow 22. Elrigh Louw was on hand to collect the offload and dive over despite the best efforts of Sione Tuipulotu, Smith converting for a 24-10 half-time advantage.

The Bulls picked off where they left off at the start of the second period, carrying with punishing physicality at every turn. Phase upon phase eventually created an overlap out wide, with Moodie collecting the final pass and racing over for the bonus-point score. Smith converted, making it a 31-10 scoreline with 46 minutes gone.

Glasgow now knew that the next try would be crucial, with Franco Smith’s men attacking with renewed vigour from across the field. Tom Jordan’s line break almost saw the fly-half put Horne away, whilst Jack Dempsey was prominent in his carrying in both the tight and loose exchanges.

Instead, though, the next points would come from the Bulls, Smith making no mistake from the 22 in front of the posts to extend his side’s lead as the match approached the hour mark, before repeating the feat to take the score to 37-10 inside the final quarter.

Yet the next try would indeed belong to Glasgow, with the skipper leading by example. After a driven maul was stopped short of the whitewash, Tuipulotu and Jordan combined for the latter to fire a 25-metre pass into the arms of Steyn. Jordan added the extras to make it 37-17, giving the Warriors something to chase with 15 minutes remaining.

That belief was raised yet further just three minutes later, as the Warriors struck for their third try. Sebastian Cancelliere timed his move to perfection to pick off an interception on halfway and race home unopposed, silencing the home crowd. Duncan Weir added the conversion having just come on for Jordan, and the Warriors had their tails up.

If the previous try had raised belief, the next took it through the roof. Off first phase ball, Stafford McDowall broke two tackles to find McKay on his shoulder, the full-back linking with the onrushing Cancelliere. The winger’s offload in turn found Dobie, who twisted, turned and found Weir to go under the posts, the fly-half converting to make it a 37-31 scoreline with eight minutes to play.

A 55-metre penalty from the boot of Smith would ultimately put the victory beyond Glasgow, but with the clock in the red, up stepped Weir from long-range with a shot at a potentially crucial losing bonus-point. The kick from the fly-half sailed straight and true between the posts, as the Warriors collected a potentially massive brace of points to continue their push for a home playoff.

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