URC: Glasgow fightback falls just short against Bulls

But two losing bonus points could yet prove crucial in fight for a top-two finish

Duncan Weir will start at stand-off for Glasgow Warriors against Ospreys tomorrow [Saturday] evening. Image © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Duncan Weir's late penalty secured a losing bonus point for Glasgow against the Bulls. Image © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Vodacom Bulls 40

Glasgow Warriors 34



THIS was the sort of match that was exhausting just to watch, so you can only guess how strength-sapping it must have been to play in, at altitude, in the heat of the Pretoria day, against a team as ferociously physical as the Bulls. Certainly,  as they entered the final quarter 37-17 behind, Glasgow looked done in and devoid of ideas.

Yet somehow, with a heavy defeat appearing inevitable. they rallied to claim two losing bonus points. They had only scored one try in that first hour, but claimed another three late on to leave the Bulls reeling momentarily. And although home stand-off Chris Smith then looked to have denied the Warriors a losing bonus point with a late penalty that put his team nine points clear, Duncan Weir – who else? – was on target with the last kick of the game to restore it.

Those two points at Loftus Versfeld were enough to ensure that Franco Smith’s team would end round 16 as they had begun it, on top of the URC table, and they could yet prove invaluable in their bid to ensure they are still in the top two when the regular season ends in two rounds’ time. Their penultimate match sees them stay in South Africa to play the Lions next Saturday, and then they end up with what should be a home banker against Zebre Parma.  

“I am absolutely gutted we lost, because I felt we were good enough to have won the game,” the Warriors head coach said. “But there were a lot of positives, growth and lessons that we will take into the next part of the season. 

“To play a quality team like the Bulls here, this close to the final part of the season, is massive. We were challenged mentally, physically and we were away from home. “The character of the team was tested and we passed that test. We haven’t achieved our pinnacle and we can still build on what we’ve achieved up to now.”

The Warriors began the game well, taking the lead through a Matt Fagerson try from a pre-planned lineout move, converted by George Horne. It was ironic that the score should come from the set piece, as the Bulls went on to dominate it for the bulk of the game, with their own opening score coming from a throw from touch.

When Kyle Steyn was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Akker van der Merwe, the penalty was sent to touch, and the hooker finished off after good work by Ruan Vermaak from the lineout.  Chris Smith converted, then, with Steyn still off the field, added another two points after Cameron Hanekom touched down from close range following a tapped penalty. George Horne hit back with a penalty, and then the Warriors changed their entire front row – a planned move, Franco Smith said later, given the lack of match time played by the starting three of Jamie Bhatti, Grant Stewart and Murphy Walker.

The new front row was penalised at the first scrum, and Chris Smith stretched his team’s lead back to seven points from the award. Then, in an impressive counter-attacj, Kurt-Lee Arendse broke from deep and turned the Glasgow defence inside out before popping up a pass for Elrigh Louw to touch down. 

Smith’s conversion made it 24-10 at the break, and the impression that the game was slipping out of Glasgow’s grasp was strengthened in a third quarter in which the Bulls were in almost complete control. Canan Moodie got their fourth try not long after the restart, and Smith converted, before adding two more penalties as the Warriors defence continued to offend.

But then somehow, with just over quarter of an hour left, Glasgow found a new lease of life and came very close to snatching all five points. Steyn got their second try after being given a clear run in by a long pass from Thomas Jordan, and the stand-off added the two points to make it 37-17.

As the Bulls tried to reassert their dominance following that score, Sebastian Cancelliere intercepted a loose pass and ran in a third Warriors try from halfway. Not long on for Jordan, Weir converted, then scored a try of his own following some exceptional inter-passing. That brought up the try bonus, and when the substitute converted his own score, Glasgow were in losing-bonus territory.

Chris Smith’s 55-metre effort briefly threatened to deny them that point, but Weir’s reply regained it, and reinforced the impression that Glasgow had emerged with a moral victory of sorts. Nonetheless, Franco Smith was disinclined to take too much solace from the match given how badly his team had fallen out of it at one point.

“I have to remind them you don’t only have to have second-half performances,” he said of his squad. “I think we can be more accurate in the first part of the game. 

“In four or five important games we’ve shown some good second-half fightback and clawed our way back, so there is good character and we’re fit enough to do that. But we must be more accurate from the start.

“The plan was not to fall behind as we did in the first half. We had a plan to manage the second part of the game, so I’m most proud of the fact that we were down 24-10 at half time and came back and put in the performance we did in the second half.

“There were too many line-outs lost, too many penalties given against us – the penalty count was hugely against us in this game and I will have to go and have a look at that. Once we got more attacking platforms in the second part of the game I thought we made a big difference.”

Teams –

Vodacom Bulls: W Le Roux; C Moodie, D Kriel, H Vorster, K Arendse (D Williams 55); C Smith, E Papier; G Steenekamp (S Matanzima 67), A van der Merwe (J Grobbelaar  51), W Louw (F Klopper 67), R Vermaak, R Nortje (capt, R Ludwig 64), M van Staden (N Carr 45-59), E Louw,  C Hanekom.

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; K Steyn (capt), S McDowall, S Tuipulotu, S Cancelliere; T Jordan (D Weir 68), G Horne (J Dobie 56); J Bhatti (N McBeth 31), G Stewart (J Matthews 31), M Walker (Z Fagerson 31), G Brown (M Williamson 47), S Cummings, M Fagerson (H Venter 47), R Darge (E Ferrie 56), J Dempsey. 

Scorers – 

Bulls: Tries Van der Merwe (15mins), Hanekom (23), Louw (38), Moodie (46) Cons Smith 4 Pens Smith 4 (33, 57, 61, 78).  

Glasgow: Tries M Fagerson (7), Steyn (64), Cancelliere (69), Weir (71). Cons Horne, Jordan, Weir 2. Pens Horne (29), Weir (80).

Scoring sequence (Bulls first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 14-10; 17-10; 22-10; 24-10 ht; 29-10; 31-10; 34-10; 37-10; 37-15; 37-17; 37-22; 37-24; 37-29; 37-31; 40-31; 40-34.

Yellow card: Glasgow: Steyn 15.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

Attendance: 10,006.

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyable game for the most part. I thought GW showed title-winning resilience. These are the matches you dread in terms of the fragility of the circumstance. Many things can, and do happen.

    We were unlucky in some parts but at the same time architect’s of our own hardship.

    But to come away from a Bulls game within six and 2 bonus points we have to be happy with that. Especially, after the gap we had between the 2 teams.

    Lions game needs to be a belter for us. We need to get in early and hold a lead. This season the Lions have been weak at coming from behind. Heads go down and hands go on hips. We need to stay on top of that.

  2. Good comeback and spirit showed but leaves you wondering what could have been if it wasn’t for the yellow card and a few moments of brain fade. But part of me also thinks that the Bulls took their foot off the gas with the game in the bag and probably had a bit in reserve if required. The fact that we were regularly going backwards in possession just undermined how much we need an out and out and inventive 10 who can work their way round a rush defence with a bit of variety and a deft boot. Next week is going to be a big game.

    • Correct re rush defence sir, I was surprised that Jordan played 10 (I really like him but really a 12 playing 10). I’d hoped Thompson would’ve played but………

  3. Lie all of us, I was seriously worried at how comprehensively we were outplayed for sixty minutes despite that bright start. It seemed that the three-quarter line could not make ground and we were getting pushed back in possession with each successive phase. George Horne must have left his brain on the plane, for what we was he thinking of taking a quick tap with just fourteen men on the pitch instead of kicking for the corner, pinning the opposition on their own line and at very least running down the clock?

    The two tries conceded during Steyn’s yellow card cost the game, which must be a sore one for him as he had a great game otherwise – and Dempsey was fantastic throughout. What great character the boys showed to come storming back, with Dobie making a big difference to my mind. And whatever you say about Duncan Weir, there isn’t a man in the entire squad who you would rather see taking that nerve-jangling penalty.

    I would argue that Glasgow were the biggest winners from this weekend’s round of fixtures because gaining two points at Loftus is sufficient to put their fate entirely in their own hands. Ending on two bonus-point wins would see us finishing top of the table, while nine would ensure that neither Munster nor the Bulls could catch up. In which event home advantage would be secured all the way to the final. And let’s face it, absolutely no one wants to fly 6,000 miles to play at altitude against the Bulls for a second time.

    Interestingly, had the light blues not kicked that late monster goal, then with the bonus points all but in the bag Weir might well have stuck his final kick in the corner. And we all know what happens when Johnny ‘Choo-choo’ Matthews gets the ball at the back of that fearsome rolling maul. Food for thought, because I doubt the Bulls would have stolen it back and run the length.

  4. Thought it was a great game to watch throughout. Warriors need to get a game plan sorted for the rush defense. I like to see teams competing at the breakdown but got very frustrated watching the Bulls mucking around the base of the ruck on our side and not hearing a whistle. In the good old days one or two of them would have got a proper shoeing

  5. Ramblings àqq
    Tremendous outcome, showed admiral fitness & composure.
    SAs were offside all game.
    The YC, 2 Matthews mis-throws & Horne impetuous cost Glasgow any chance of a win.
    Dobie should be regularly starting (if not for Glasgow or Edinburgh he should ask for a move)
    Sets up the final 2 games nicely 2 wins should see Glasgow top the URC

  6. I really feared they were in for an absolute hiding at 37-10 so after the last 20 minutes you almost felt it was like a win so credit to Glasgow for finally playing some great rugby. The Weir try was a cracker. I thought when they were under the cosh in the first 60, Horne was very poor- some bad kicks, wild passes and the previously mentioned quick tap. You need some accuracy when your under the pump and Horne isn’t good under pressure – maybe just an off day but thought Dobie was great when he came on. Dempsey, Cummings, McDowell (as always), Tui all went well. McKay does sometimes need to kick – he runs everything back and sometimes its not on.

    Really need to get a home quarter/semi because you wouldn’t want to go back to Pretoria in a knockout. There is a chance Leinster won’t win next week against Ulster as they will be resting all their top names ahead of the Champions cup final. Well still need to beat the Lions next week though to get 1st or 2nd – should be doable.

  7. Those 2 points could be very important. Also we know now, if we didnt before, that they are very fit and good at finishing once they’ve worked out how to get round defences. Next week will be a really big game but they know now top place is in their hands.

  8. every Glasgow player was blowing very hard after 20mins, some hurting. Wee George’s quick tap was absolute madness in that situation. Ref had rightly warned Warriors about time wasting and convenient injuries to stop play – clearly trying to catch breath, who can blame them! Wee George’s quick tap was absolute madness in that situation.
    Amazing thing that in a game that looked like running away from them, Glasgow finished much the stronger side and could be disappointed not to snatch a win. Great display, great guts and amazing fitness

  9. Great last 20, the best team and closest to a win as visitors in Pretoria for a long long time. Well done on 2 points 👍

  10. That is a tremendous effort by the Glasgow lads, I have an inkling how sapping it is to play rugger at altitude. To come back as they did, to have the Bulls on the back foot on there own patch says much about there guts and character.
    Cannot give them enough plaudits, would have been even more if they could work out how to deal with a rush defence 🙂

  11. The Bulls dominated the game for 60 minutes then ran out of stream and allowed Glasgow to start to function like Glasgow. Up till then the Bulls defense and line speed were impressive, we just seemed to end up going backwards all the time under their pressure. When we got to 31 I thought we might just win but a silly penalty ended our chances of winning. Then when we looked like only getting one point they give away a silly penalty and up steps Weir and he does the job. That’s 2 point might have been 5 but we are still top. OK yet again will someone tie Horne’s boot laces together when there is a penalty in the middle of the field, off he went , he gets tackled mile’s from the line, robbed and the Bulls score the try of the match up the other end.
    Good games from Dempsey , Cummins , and Dobie put in a good cameo. The good point is we only need 4 points next week.

      • Looking very tight at the top now. A five pointer away against the Lions is much more of a challenge than at home against Zebre.

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