URC – Review – Mixed Results For South African Teams

 

It was a rewarding weekend for the DHL Stormers and Hollywoodbets Sharks in round 13 of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship as they secured important victories to make it two out of four for the domestic franchises as the scramble for quarter-final spots intensifies.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks earned their second victory in a row as they defeated Edinburgh 23-13 in Durban, while the DHL Stormers staged a late comeback to defeat Ulster 13-7 in Cape Town.

It was, however, a disappointing weekend for the Vodacom Bulls, who suffered a heavy 47-14 defeat against log leaders Leinster in Dublin, while the Emirates Lions went down 36-21 against Ospreys in Swansea.

These and other results saw the Vodacom Bulls (45pts) drop from second to third place on the log, while the DHL Stormers (39 pts) remained in fifth place, and the Emirates Lions (34 pts) dropped out of the top eight into 11th place.

The win for the Hollywoodbets Sharks (18pts) saw them hop up into 13th position, but with only five pool rounds remaining and the KwaZulu-Natalians trailing the Johannesburg outfit by 16 points, they will be under immense pressure to stage a late comeback to keep alive their faint hopes of making it into the playoffs.

Strong Leinster second half comes at a heavy price for Vodacom Bulls

A strong second half by Leinster saw them claw their way back from a 14-12 halftime deficit against the Vodacom Bulls for an emphatic 47-14 Vodacom URC victory at the RDS Arena in Dublin on Friday evening, in a strong statement showing why they are the top team in the competition.

The first half was tightly contested as both teams threw everything at one another, but three penalty goals by Johan Goosen and a try by Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok Kurt-Lee Arendse were enough to give the Pretoria side an encouraging two-point lead entering the break.

Leinster, who lost a man to a yellow card for a shoulder charge on Arendse while scoring the try, in turn, scored two tries within 10 minutes to account for their 12 points.

However, the Irish giants stepped up their performance significantly in the second half and defended well to shut out the Vodacom Bulls, denying them from adding to their score, while their well-rounded attacking play earned them five more tries by Jame Lowe, Michael Milne, Dan Sheehan, Jack Conan and Liam Turner to seal an invaluable bonus-point win.

Leinster’s victory saw them build their cushion at the top of the table to five points (54 pts), ahead of the second-placed Glasgow Warriors (49 points).

Hollywoodbets Sharks make it two in a row with Edinburgh victory

The Hollywoodbets Sharks held their nerve in a competitive encounter against Edinburgh at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban on Saturday afternoon to convert a narrow 7-3 halftime lead into a 23-13 victory for their second Vodacom URC win in a row and their third in the competition.

Edinburgh showed real intent on attack, but they were unable to breach the Hollywoodbets Sharks’ defence, which resulted in their only points of the half being from a penalty goal by Ben Healy shortly before halftime.

The Durbanites, meanwhile, scored the first of their three tries in the 21st minute compliments of Aphelele Fassi, which was a welcome relief after a scoreless first quarter.

The KwaZulu-Natalians found their rhythm after the break and had the first say as experienced Springbok midfielder Lukhanyo Am crossed the chalk, and although Edinburgh managed to close the gap slightly with a penalty goal, Siya Masuku put them back into a fairly comfortable lead thanks to two of his own.

Edinburgh were dealt a big blow with six minutes to play as they received a yellow card, and this paved the way for Phepsi Buthelezi to score the hosts’ third try of the match two minutes later. Despite being a man down, the Scots scored a late consolation try compliments of Boan Venter, but it was too little too late.

Ospreys outplay Emirates Lions in Swansea

The Emirates Lions came off second best against Ospreys in their Vodacom URC clash in Swansea on Saturday after being outscored five tries to three which saw them go down 36-21 in the end.

The determined Ospreys scored their first five-pointer in the fourth minute, and they added another 13 minutes later, for a 12-0 lead before receiving a yellow card. The Emirates Lions took full advantage of this as PJ Botha scored a try shortly before the break, although the hosts had the final say with Owen Williams slotting a penalty goal to enter the sheds 15-7 down.

The hosts continued to show their try-scoring abilities, adding two in a row in the third quarter to push them further ahead on the scoreboard.

The Emirates Lions, however, refused to give up, and their determination paid off as Quan Horn and Richard Kriel scored tries within 10 minutes to keep alive their hopes of earning a losing bonus point, but this was dashed as Ospreys’ Keiran Williams scored their fifth try on the stroke of fulltime, to hand the hosts the rewarding 36-21 victory.

DHL Stormers keep home record intact with win against Ulster

The DHL Stormers survived a strong challenge from Ulster in what proved to be tightly fought Vodacom URC encounter at DHL Stadium in Cape Town, with a late try by Evan Roos and two penalty goals by Manie Libbok sealing the win for the Capetonians.

Ulster dominated territory and possession in the first half and applied intense pressure on the DHL Stormers’ defence, but despite this they only managed to score an early try by Nick Timoney for a narrow 7-0 lead at the break.

In stark contrast to Ulster, the Cape side tried hard to make their presence felt on attack, but errors and decision-making denied them from putting points on the scoreboard.

The hosts finally made a breakthrough in the 54th minute thanks to a penalty goal by Libbok, and to their delight they found themselves one man up for 10 minutes in the fourth quarter as Ulster received a yellow card.

They couldn’t capitalise on this advantage, but the hosts fought hard until the end, and it paid off as Roos crossed the chalk with seven minutes to play, with Libbok’s conversion and a subsequent penalty goal at the death seeing them through for the 13-7 victory.