United Rugby Championship – The Vodacom Bulls Take Over As Log Leaders


The Vodacom Bulls have taken over as the new leaders of the United Rugby Championship after a hard-fought victory at Cardiff.

Leinster and Glasgow Warriors are hot on their heels also on 15 points after wins over the weekend.

Glasgow left it late to secure victory over Ospreys in Swansea, with Leinster earning a bonus-point win over Dragons in Newport.

Ulster got the better of Munster to climb up to fourth, while Benetton remain the only unbeaten team in the league after they held on to defeat the DHL Stormers.

Connacht surrendered their unbeaten run at the last moment with a narrow defeat in Edinburgh and Zebre Parma won for the first time in 29 matches as they beat the Hollywoodbets Sharks.

The Emirates Lions edged a narrow clash against Scarlets to pick up their first win of the season.

Zebre Parma 12-10 Hollywoodbets Sharks
Zebre Parma claimed a first win since April 2022 after a nail-biting victory over Hollywoodbets Sharks.

The Italian outfit had lost a record 28 games since that win over Dragons and were indebted to three penalties from the boot of full-back Geronimo Prisciantelli and a further one from Jacopo Trulla.

The Sharks crossed for the only try of the game from Cameron Wright with Boeta Chamberlain tagging on the conversion and adding a penalty.

Sharks were reduced to 14 men with three minutes left on the clock as Hyron Andrews was shown a red card following a dangerous clearout and the Italians held on for victory.

Sharks coach John Plumtree, whose side are bottom having lost all four matches this season, said: "A lot of our basic skill sets let us down. Losing the aerial battle alone was key because it allowed them to dominate territory. The yellow and red card did not help the situation.

“On a positive note, we had a couple of nice moments on the attack but didn’t capitalise on the available opportunities. I was proud of the effort around our goal line defence and many young players stood up physically.

“This has been a disappointing tour and we have picked up some key injuries in the same positions, which have been tricky to navigate especially with eight of our Springboks unavailable."

Ulster 21-14 Munster
Tries in either half from Jacob Stockdale and Nick Timoney allowed Ulster to battle back from 14-3 down to beat Munster.

On a night when hooker Rob Herring made his record-breaking 230th Ulster appearance, the home side’s bench had the edge for them in a closely-fought game with Herring joined by Iain Henderson, John Cooney and new cap Scott Wilson in having a big impact in the second half.

Nathan Doak contributed a conversion and three penalties to securing the win with Ulster’s defence holding firm in a pulsating finish to the game.

Craig Casey scored two tries in the first half for reigning champions Munster, with Jack Crowley converting both.

Ulster coach Dan McFarland said: "I was pleased with a lot of what we did in the game. We showed some attacking intent and I thought we were very dangerous for long periods.

“After 18 minutes they didn’t score but to come back from that (trailing 14-3) is a pretty big ask against a team of the quality of Munster.

“I was really pleased at the way we fought back into it.”

“They (Munster) were battering away at the end like they have done on so many occasions, it took every ounce that we had to stop them scoring.”

Munster boss Graham Rowntree said: "We scored two tries early on and had some good territory early on without being brilliant. We weren’t that good and we said that at half-time.

“There was certainly no complacency at half-time because they had already started to come back into the game, and then the third quarter, it just got away from us.

“We were inaccurate, sloppy, ill-disciplined. Our ruck wasn’t fast enough and that is the heartbeat of the game for us. Really disappointed."

Cardiff 12-18 Vodacom Bulls
The Vodacom Bulls climbed to the top of the table after handing Cardiff a third defeat from four at the Arms Park.

Embrose Papier and Sebastian de Klerk scored two tries in quick succession with Chris Smith adding a conversion to put the visitors in control after 13 minutes.

But Cardiff rallied with Mason Grady going over before Smith extended the lead with a penalty.

Rey Lee-Lo crossed and Tinus de Beer converted to reduce the gap to three points but another Smith penalty sealed it.

Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt said: "All four games have had just one score in it and we will take the positives from that performance.

"I have a clear ambition of what a Cardiff performance should look like and that was closer to it than the win over Dragons.

"We have young guys learning in a tough environment and results can affect players but we are fronting up in every game and that's what everyone wants to see."

Bulls coach Jake White said: "Defensively, they scored one try and we made a mistake there, but we were very comfortable without the ball.

“And the way we scrambled back at the end there … you can’t do anything other than be proud of the fact that there was such a good effort.

“That’s all of our hard work and as a coach, you’re very happy to see that at the back end of a game."

Benetton 20-17 DHL Stormers
Benetton maintained their unbeaten start to the BKT United Rugby Championship season with a hard-fought victory at Stadio Monigo.

Marco Zanon and Alessandro Izekor went in for tries with Tomas Albornoz adding a conversion and penalty, while Jacob Umaga converted Izekor's second-half score. Rhyno Smith also sent over a drop-goal.

Warrick Gelant, Scarra Ntubeni and Courtnall Skosan went in for the South Africans with Jean-Luc du Plessis adding a conversion.

Stormers coach John Dobson said: "We wanted to go to Munster on the front foot, not the back foot. The defeat against Benetton is extremely disappointing.

"We needed this win. It was one of the wins we wanted on tour, so it is hugely disappointing for us. Without playing particularly well, we probably done enough to win it.

“It puts a lot of pressure on next week, but we have been in these positions before and we do fight back, but I am very frustrated with this.”

Ospreys 23-31 Glasgow Warriors
An impressive comeback from Glasgow Warriors saw them overturn a 10-0 deficit to win in Swansea.

Ospreys had no answer to Glasgow’s formidable line-out drive from which they scored all four of their tries.

Johnny Matthews scored two of them with Sione Vailanu and Allan Dell also on the try-scoring sheet. Duncan Weir converted all four and added a penalty.

Keiran Williams and Reuben Morgan-Williams scored Ospreys’ tries with Jack Walsh kicking three penalties and two conversions.

Ospreys coach Toby Booth said: "It is a tough pill to swallow in the way that it is but I’m really proud of the team in the adversity shown to get back into the game against a very good side.

"Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve, sometimes you do. That’s why people like watching it and why on days like today people don’t like playing it. The euphoria you get from it makes you want to go out there again and play.

“We’re benchmarking ourselves against a good side and we started the game well, which is good and encouraging.

"If you don’t get things your own way, it comes down to key moments. We lost a few of them but still found a way to be in front with five minutes to go. I think the team should take a lot of credit for that."

Glasgow coach Franco Smith said: "We always plan to try and score four tries and never mind the result, so we were glad we got that done.

“But the Ospreys were excellent tonight, especially in the first 20 minutes they disrupted us completely, they were very accurate when they had the opportunities and we had to fight hard to stay in the game.”

Scarlets 23-24 Emirates Lions
Henco van Wyk's last-gasp try saw the Emirates Lions secure a thrilling win and hand Scarlets their first home defeat for more than a year.

Sanele Nohamba converted the score to see the Welsh side lose at Parc Y Scarlets for the first time in the league since October 20, 2022.

It looked as though returning Wales hooker Ryan Elias, on regional duty for the first time since the World Cup in France, had given the Scarlets a winning lead when he finished off an expert driving line-out maul 10 minutes from time.

The immaculate Ioan Lloyd added the conversion and it was then 23-14 to the home side. They looked firm favourites to hold out until Nohamba punished an error in the 77th minute with a 30-metre penalty and then Steff Evans saw his kick up field charged down by opposite number Richard Kriel.

Kriel raced on to the bouncing ball in the home 22, regathered and sent Van Wyk running to the posts.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said: "Any win is good – away from home, in tough European conditions, it is even better.

“We know it is going to be tough...but there has almost been a momentum shift, and the positive talk and energy is already different (after the win). We will get a bit of confidence out of this.”

Edinburgh 25-22 Connacht
A Ben Healy drop-goal with the last kick of the match earned Edinburgh a dramatic win just as the Irish side appeared to have snatched a late draw.

Connacht, looking to win their opening four games of the season for the first time since 2002, battled their way back into the game and seemed to have avoided defeat when Cian Prendergast touched down with three minutes left before JJ Hanrahan's conversion made it 22-22.

But there was still time for Edinburgh to mount another attack and Healy broke Connacht hearts right at the end as the Scottish side picked up their third win of the season and left their opponents nursing a first loss.

Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt said: "I’m delighted with the win. I thought the guys were outstanding tonight defensively, although we leaked the three tries.

“I thought they were really resilient for 80 minutes. We asked for an 80-minute effort this year and they brought it tonight, so I’m very proud of them.

“Ben clicked it over and I think it’s just a great win for us. Because this team now believe they can win in tight situations against top teams.”

Dragons 10-33 Leinster
Dragons fell to their third home defeat of the season as Leinster came away from Rodney Parade with a bonus-point victory.

Dan Sheehan, Thomas Clarkson, Ciaran Frawley, Charlie Ngatai and Scott Penny scored Leinster’s tries with Ross Byrne converting four.

Aneurin Owen touched down for the Dragons try with Cai Evans kicking a penalty and a conversion.

The hosts’ woes continued when Taine Basham was sent off for making head contact with his arm.

Dragons coach Dai Flanagan said: "It was 14-3 at half-time and we talked about putting the pressure on them, but we made an error, and they went the length of the field to score.

"It was 26-10 when Taine was sent off and we had a lineout 15 metres out with the opportunity to build pressure. Instead, we relieved pressure and it was game over.

“We are doing some stuff that is not acceptable. We are not going to get wins unless we start performing better and eradicate the errors."