URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: heroic Warriors snatch glory

Franco Smith's side fight back from 13-0 to secure a sensational against-the-odds win

Jack Dempsey on the charge for Glasgow Warriors in their URC Grand Final win over Vodacom Bulls. Image: Image: Inpho/URC
Jack Dempsey on the charge for Glasgow Warriors in their URC Grand Final win over Vodacom Bulls. Image: Image: Inpho/URC

Vodacom Bulls 16

Glasgow Warriors 21

A HEROIC second half performance from Glasgow Warriors snatched this historic victory over a Bulls side who ran out of ideas and energy against opposition who simply would not give an inch – no matter what – battling from the very first to the very last minute as though their lives depended on it.

This is arguably the greatest achievement by a Scottish team since the 1999 Five Nations victory for the national side given the journey Glasgow have been on over the last three weekends, finishing fourth in the league then beating the Stormers at home and table-toppers Munster away, before usurping almost all expectations outside the camp to fight back from 13-0 down to claim the URC title. They did it having travelled 8,500 miles during the week, playing at altitude, inside a hostel stadium and against a team packed with power and self-belief.

Attitude was key to this, but so was game-plan, accuracy and fitness. To only allow Bulls three points in the second half and win the try count by three to one is the sort of stuff movies are made about.,

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Bulls helped themselves to three early points with Johan Goosen firing home from long-range after Jack Dempsey was penalised for illegally ripping the ball away from the home stand-off when his knee was already on the ground.

There was an ominous moment on 11 minutes when the home pack powered to a penalty at the first scrum of the match, creating the field position for a Bulls attack which saw Sergeal Patterson and Kurt-Lee Arendse threaten on the left.

Kyle Steyn managed to get back to gather a grubber through but had to carry the ball into touch and then, with Bulls already playing an advantage after Warriors interfered with the line-out catcher in the air, Jamie Bhatti was whistled for not rolling away. Goosen stepped forward to double his and his team’s account from right in front of the posts.

The next scrum was a Warriors put-in and this time the visiting forwards stood firm to provide the platform for their team’s first foray into the home 22, but they struggled to find any gaps to exploit, and a loose pop out the back from Huw Jones was hacked downfield by Embrose Papier, meaning a loss of 50-yards before a Bulls knock-on allowed Warriors some respite just over 10 yards from their own line.

But they couldn’t find a way back out of their own half, and with the penalties stacking up against the visitors, referee Andre Piardi had a word with skipper Steyn. It took some super-human defending from Zander Fagerson and Rory Darge (who managed to get his arm between the ball and the ground) to prevent Wilco Louw from claiming the game’s opening try.

Eventually the pressure told, on 24 minutes, when Marco van Staden broke from a line-out, wasn’t held by Darge in the tackle, then powered over the line. There was a classless moment from home centre Harold Vorster, who went out of his way to patronisingly pat Sebastian Cancelliere on the back of the head as he lay on the ground having failed to halt the van Staden’s charge, leading to a mini-scuffle.

A weaving run from deep from Josh McKay provided a reminder of the threat Warriors can pose if given half a chance, a smart diagonal grubber by Sione Tuipulotu gave his team field position on Bulls’ 22, and visiting aggression in the contact area meant Bulls had to work hard to get back on the front foot.

Perhaps slightly frustrated that their dominant start to the match was beginning to falter, Papier tried to force a pass and Cancelliere intercepted before setting off on a 50-yard break down field. When he was eventually closed down, the Argentinean winger managed to offload  out of contact to Dempsey, and play was transferred from right to left to set up a Steyn charge over two men, which was eventually stopped five yards short of the line.

Ultimately, however, it came to nothing, with Johan Grobbelaar winning a penalty over Jamie Bhatti on the deck, and a coruscating break from Devon Williams followed by another excruciating reminder of home scrum power suggesting Bulls would finish the half in full control.

But Matt Fagerson, the catalyst of last weekend’s second half rally in Munster and man-of-the-match here, had other ideas. He carried hard thrice, with Johnny Matthews and Darge also weighing in with some important yardage, before Scott Cummings bustled over from lose range to bring it back to a six-point game on the stroke of half-time.



Warriors started the second half in lively fashion and it took another huge effort over the tackled man from Grobbelaar to win a penalty on his own line. Dempsey kept the pressure on with a powerful surge and a Steyn grubber had Peterson, Elrigh Louw, Papier and Williams scrambling to clear from their own in-goal area.

But it was Bulls who struck next with another Goosen penalty, awarded against Fagerson for not rolling away, but that was as good as it got for the hosts.

A mix-up at the restart allowed Warriors to kick to the corner, and that trusty line-out drive needed some help from the backs to rumbled over for Glasgow’s 23rd maul try of the season – no other team has scored more than seven – with Japan-bound George Turner claiming the points.

It almost got even better for Warriors when McKay slipped out a tackle and surged out of his own 22 straight from the Bulls kick-off, but his hack ahead was slightly overcooked and bounced harmlessly over the dead ball line.

Jamie Dobie was one of a glut of replacements for the visitors just before the hour mark and made an immediate impact with a break up the right wing, and Warriors snatched the lead a few moments later, with a breathless passage of play sweeping left then right then left again, with Steyn twice making significant ground and on the second occasion he timed his pass back inside perfectly to send Huw Jones over.

That made it 16-21 to with just under 20 minutes to play and Dempsey thought he had delivered the killer blow when he gathered a loose ball on his own 10-metre line and charged the distance, but the TMO was called in to correctly identify an early tackle by Nathan McBeth on Arendse which had created the opportunity.

Bulls dug deep and spent a punishing few minutes bombarding the Warriors inside their 22, but the visitors stood strong, and when Horne was taken out in the air as he collected his own charged-down box-kick it gave the scrum-half a long-range opportunity to push his team’s lead out to eight points – but his effort fell agonisingly short.

Goosen then committed a moment of devastating self-harm when he rushed a turnover penalty and ended up kicking the ball dead, meaning play was brought all the way back for a Warriors scrum just outside the Bulls’ 22.

With just under three minutes to go, Jones did brilliantly to win a ruck penalty as Bulls slowly cranked up the pressure, but the TMO came in to point out a high tackle from Tom Jordan on Francois Klopper which led to a yellow-card for the Warriors stand-off, and signicantly gave Bulls possession back just inside their own half.

Williams kicked towards the corner, and Bulls threw everything at the Warriors during nine tense phases, before Turner gave away a penalty for playing the ball on the deck in front of hisnown posts, and the hosts – trailing by five points – had to go to the corner.

There was then a collapsing maul penalty leading to another close-range line-out, and this time the maul rumbled towards the Warriors line, but somehow the ball was held up  and amid near deafening silence around the sell-out 51,000 Loftus Versfeld, the victors summoned the energy for some euphoric celebration.


Teams –

Vodacom Bulls: D Williams; S Peterson, D Kriel, H Vorster, K Arendse; J Goosen, E Papier; G Steenkamp (A Matanzima 73), J Grabbelaar (A van der Merwe 50), W Louw (F Klopper 73), R Vermaak, R Nortje (R Ludwig 67), M van Staden, E Louw, C Hanekom ( N Carr 47).

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; S Cancelliere (J Dobie 59), H Jones, S Tuipulotu, K Steyn; T Jordan G Horne; J Bhatti (N McBeth 45), J Matthews (G Turner 45), Z Fagerson, R Gray (G Brown 59), S Cummings, M Fagerson R Darge (H Venter 59), J Dempsey.

Referee: A Piardi


Scorers –

Vodacom Bulls: Try: van Staden; Con: Goosen; Pens: Goosen 3.

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Cummings, Turner, Jones; Cons: Horne 3.

Scoring sequence (Bulls first): 3-0; 6-0; 11-0; 13-0; 13-5; 13-7 (h-t) 16-7; 16-12; 16-14; 16-19; 16-21.


Yellow cards –

Glasgow Warriors: Jordan (77 mins)


Attendance: 50,388

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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Well done Glasgow. It amazes me how such a success spawns bitter responses. For once can we not just enjoy the moment and then feel empowered to clinically assess performance levels for future improvements.

  2. Just watched Jake White’s post match press conference….. disgraceful sore loser who lives in Trump world.
    According to Mr.White “ALL Warriors replacements were internationals, the referee won the game for Warriors” and a host of other mis truths. Not a word of congratulation to Warriors, no acceptance that Warriors played wel or deserved to win.
    Absolutely disgraceful, can see where Erasmus takes his lead from.

    • Just watched it – man that’s a bitter guy. Made me laugh when he was talking about the experienced internationals on our bench making the difference. Yes (leaving aside the magnificent George Turner) those gnarly seasoned internationals – Gregor Brown, Nathan McBeth, Henco Venter and Jamie Dobie!

    • It makes the victory even better when you realise how desperate the opposition coach is to blame anybody for the defeat except himself and his players.

      (Hungarian football fans are probably saying the same thing after watching Steve Clarke’s post-match interview).

  3. Brilliant result done the hard way. Away wins at Munster and Bulls shows serous form. I was worried at half time that Bulls would pull away but what a performance in the second half.

    Credit to all involved at Glasgow. Hopefully signs of things to come.

  4. A lot of understandable chat about Smith for Scotland. Not convinced about that. He failed with Italy, and I think he prefers the day to day involvement of club management. Also his family is still in South Africa. I think we should just enjoy his time in Scotland while we can.

  5. That was the best Scottish rugby moment for a long while. Just an amazing performance the whole year. Im an Edinburgh fan btw

  6. That must be the greatest achievement from a scottish sporting club side since aberdeen beating real Madrid in 83. Just staggering. Can’t wait for the new season to start now.

  7. Fantastic achievement and just shows what a great leader can do with the right support from the whole team on and off the pitch. It’s very Scottish to look for a negative which is of course the fear that Franco will get poached by the national side. I hope he doesn’t anytime soon for selfish Glasgow reasons but also because I don’t think he would get the same support and success in the Scotland setup. Mon the weeg

    • Big danger now is not Scotland job but Leicester Tigers now looking for a head coach.
      Start the KEEP FRANCO campaign now.
      Can I also point out for all Bulls supporters and URC that Glasgow Warriors are champions, NOT Glasgow WORRIORS as they had going round the stadium in the background when Ryan Wilson was doing his post match.

  8. Wow, that was truly epic. Warriors one and all. They stood up and said ‘we are having this’. Incredible intensity at the end of a monumental journey . A team of heroe, with Fagerson bros and Dempsey digging out another level. True grit. Those boys should be so proud.

  9. Imagine what the score would have been if Glasgow had beaten the Lions and that game had been at Murrayfield in front of 68,000 Scots ……

  10. I need say no more than I am so happy tonight. What a performance Glasgow, congratulations to Franco, the whole squad and everyone else part of the Warriors camp.

    We are Warriors!

    Roll on next season.

  11. Thrilling to see young Scottish players standing up and playing a full part in an extraordinary team performance. Mcbeth, Brown, Darge, Dobie, Jordan. Add in Williamson, Samuels, Hiddlestone, Ashfar, McDowell, Smith and others, the future for Glasgow and Scotland has never been brighter. Steyn should immediately get the Scotland captaincy long term. Anyone know if Mackay is qualifying for Scotland any time soon? Would be a huge asset to the squad. GT in last chance saloon. Franco to take over when GT’s contract is up in 2026.Gives him 2 seasons up to next World Cup.

    • Josh McKay joined Glasgow Warriors in December 2021, so he’ll qualify for Scotland by residency in December 2026 (assuming he doesn’t qualify by ancestry). But he’s so good that New Zealand may want him before them.

      • Does it not start from when he joined Ayrshire Bulls in 2019?

        In which case he’ll be qualified this year.

    • Agree re Kyle Steyn, the guy is truly world class. Maybe doesn’t have the X factor in attack that Darcy and Duhan have, but is superior in every other aspect.
      This was a defining victory for Glasgow. They are a well oiled machine, with no out and out superstars (other than Zander) who gel together perfectly. Hope Tom Jordan becomes Scottish qualified and learns to lower his tackle height as he is one gritty fly half

    • Josh Mckay is superb but looks like he’s not eligible until 6N 2026. He has got scottish blood but 5 generations ago.
      I’d hope that several of the young players you mention will play a full part in the upcoming tour. (4-0 is a prerequisite)

  12. Thrilling to see young Scottish players standing up and playing a full part in an extraordinary team performance. Mcbeth, Brown, Darge, Dobie, Jordan. Add in Williamson, Samuels, Hiddlestone, Ashfar, McDowell, Smith and others, the future for Glasgow and Scotland has never been brighter. Steyn should immediately get the Scotland captaincy long term. Anyone know if Mackay is qualifying for Scotland any time soon? Would be a huge asset to the squad. GT in last chance saloon. Franco to take over when GT’s contract is up in 2026.Gives him 2 seasons up to next World Cup.

  13. After all the shit scotland supporters have had to endure over the last 20 years this result and the performances leading up to it are almost fantasyland. When you consider all the negativity around the game here everybody involved in the glasgow set up should be given the freedom of scotland for this result. Lets hope we can use this as a springboard for greater positivity and success in the future.

  14. Franco Smith is a real rugby coach better words can not be said and please for Scottish rugbys sake give him the top job. He has made good Glasgow players into fantastic players and give him the talent from Edinburgh and wow whio knos what could happen.

    • NO!! Scottish Rugby please leave Franco where he is, and make sure he is compensated properly to keep him at Warriors ….CHAMPIONS!!;

      • No thanks. Scotland is the most important thing. Get him in the hot seat once Townsend has finished failing at another 6N.

    • It’s the energy, culture and self belief Smith has installed all of which provides a strong foundation to manage pressure moments and create opportunities. Hopefully the energy and confidence built can be reflected in the national camp.

        • In what capacity. I can think of different areas that trust sits within team dynamics. Where would you pinpoint the lack of trust from Gregor Townsend.

  15. Wow, what a performance that was. Not going to lie, i was in tears when the FT whistle went.

    Dempsey and the Fagerson brothers were immense tonight, they really fronted up.

    Steyno led by example, what a captain, what a team!

    So proud to be a Warriors fan tonight 🏆🏉🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

  16. We are the CHAMPIONS!
    The defense was awesome, Matt Fagerson deserved MOM he was immense tonight , the backs just class and McKay some great breaks and we outmuscled a class South African team. The team has now become a whole team under Franco we have a great bunch of forwards to complement our famed back runners. Thank you Franco. We also are now a seeded team for next years EPCR if I ‘m right in thinking. Finally Mathews stays top try scorer in the URC go mate.

    • That’s a very interesting point. I’ve noticed that Steyn can be quite forceful in his comments to the referee, but he’s polite enough to get away with it – and he may even have succeeded in changing Mr Piardi’s attitude in the semi-final. So, could he be captain of Scotland? Some recent Scottish captains have found that the burden of captaincy has damaged their own play, and others have failed to impose their authority on the team, but Steyn is a complete success at club level, so perhaps he deserves a chance at national level.

      • That would mean one of Duhan or Graham missing out. Not saying that’s a problem, but it is a consequence.

        • I think Duhan shouldn’t even be near the 23 (unless we’re playing England). Steyn and a fit/in form Darcy are our two best wingers, but until Darcy is fully fit again I’d stick with Rowe for the time being.

  17. What an incredible game and an incredible result. The best result from a Scottish rugby team ever I would say. At 13-0 down I was worried it was getting away from us but what a 2nd half performance. we got stronger as the game went on. I thought the decisions were just not going with us in the 2nd half but what an epic defensive shift at the end. So many great performances with the back row outstanding.

    Well done Glasgow – you have given Sottish rugby a massive lift.

  18. The pack was immense, the backrow, Zander playing yet another 80 minutes – outstanding.

    Steyn steered the whole team though his own performance and in the way he interacted with his player and the officials, but most of all, well done Franco Smith

  19. Immense. Take this Glasgow side, add Kinghorn from Toulouse, Russell (and Redpath) from Bath, Schoeman and a winger or two from Edinburgh. Even makes you want to throw Franco Smith into the mix, before the opportunity is lost…

  20. Legends! I would say that is the best victory by a Scottish team since 1990. Hopefully the club can get some funds to bring in more top players for the next couple of seasons and to mitigate anyone coming in for our coach.

  21. Raising and magnificent.

    Unfair to pick players but S.Tuipoloyu.Fagerson and J.McKay.

  22. A few points. (1) Glasgow have tweaked their tactics since the previous ill-fated trip to South Africa and binned the fast 7s style rugby and instead kept games tighter. (2) They have shown a hard edge which is necessary to compete and win at the top level. (3) Imagine what a Franco Smith type of coach could do with the current Scotland squad. Congratulations to everyone connected with the Club – a tumultuous achievement and great advert for Scottish rugby.

        • Ever look at the utter shambles he inherited?
          That’s why the record looks like it does.

          • Look at the utter shambles that Franco Smith inherited. But in two seasons he turned Glasgow from no-hopers into champions.

            Vern Cotter turned Scotland from a team of no-hopers into a team of near-missers. It’s an achievement, but not a very impressive achievement.

      • Nothing same as he’s always done hence he’s continually been sacked since Scotland grift. He’s an utter charlatan who couldn’t spot Barclay as a player. Even GT is better FFS look at the comparative records..

    • We must also acknowledge the role the SRU have had in this success with the increased funding in our 2 pro teams.

      • Certainly pumped money into your club / franchise for a while….how are the Heriots youth club side doing in terms of supplying the senior side? Imagine it’s a seamless transition from youth club rugby given money you lot have banked??!!

        • Typical comment from someone hiding behind anonymity. Come out from under your stone and I’ll tell you how much it has cost the club, not only financially but in 1000’s of volunteer hours it takes to keep 5 senior teams going and a vibrant youth section.

      • Glasgow won despite the SRU not because of it despite what Dodson’s mates might try to make you believe.

  23. Nae words… we always had a chance, but that second half domination was something to behold. Just awesome!!

  24. Without doubt the greatest achievement by a Scottish team during the professional era. 🐻

    • Sir, apart from the Lisbon Lions there’s an argument that today is 2nd is scottish club sport history

      • This beats the Lisbon lions for me, a way bigger task given the travel etc and having hardly any fans in tow.

        • Glasgow also haven’t operated as an organisation that allowed child abuse which is always a bonus.

      • I would say the Lisbon Lions were greater, I should have said rugby on this rugby channel 😊

  25. Wow, well done Glasgow, heroic second half performance and survived the late onslaught superbly. To go to South Africa and win like that is the stuff of dreams, Roy of the rovers stuff!

    We will most certainly be dancing in the streets of Glasgow tonight!

  26. I cannot quite articulate this victory, not just for Glasgow Warriors but for the Scotland national side.
    This victory/performance is seismic, to beat Munster away on Sat night, then scrabble around to find flights and leg it down to Pretoria in dribs and drabs, finally getting the squad together on Wed lunch time, my goodness that shows some character, and then produce this performance at altitude, words fail me but I’m trying my best.
    Also, often do you hear of a tight head playing the full 80 mins in a cup final at altitude, never, and exemplifies the attitude within this team.
    Massive congratulations to Franco Smith, to the coaches, the back room staff and most of all the Glasgow squad, you’ve all done Scottish rugby proud 🏉👍🙂

  27. Wonderful team …… Wonderful games ….. Wonderful results.
    Franco Smith is real rugby coach.

  28. From an Edinburgh supporter
    Fantastic Glasgow…
    Well deserved,
    You’ve done Scottish rugby proud


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