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Vodacom Bulls 16-21 Glasgow Warriors – Warriors Crowned URC Champions

2024 Champions
BKT United Rugby Championship Grand Final, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, South Africa 22/6/2024 Vodacom Bulls vs Glasgow Warriors The Glasgow Warriors lift the trophy and celebrate as URC Champions - credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady, used with permission

Glasgow completed a hugely challenging knockout phase to clinch the 2024 URC title and beat the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in front of some 50,00 fans, most of them South African.

Was this the most important win of the Scottish rugby professional era?

It certainly felt like it given the odds they faced and the willpower that was required to grind it out.

Given the short turnarounds from winning away at Munster – also a little unexpected – it felt like the challenge of altitude, travel and fielding the same first XV three weeks in a row might be too much for Glasgow to overcome.

Luckily no-one told Glasgow.

Banished were memories of the slightly flaky team beaten by the unfavoured Lions earlier in the year – widely credited as the result that meant Glasgow didn’t finish higher on the league table and earn a home final in Scotland – and in their place appeared a Warriors side of steely determination, ready to play knockout rugby. Whisper it, they even started kicking.

The Bulls may have been slightly less experienced in some areas than the Warriors in terms of international caps but they are still formidable at home and had every advantage in this game, Jake White’s deluded post-match comments about the referee favouring away sides notwithstanding.

Glasgow initially struggled to make an impact on the scoreboard in the first half. It all seemed to be going to script with a lot of heavy defending and occasional breaks by the back threes of both sides.

At 13-0 the Bulls had chipped away a decent lead. With half-time fast approaching, Scott Cummings burrowing try provided a vital lifeline to keep Glasgow in the game. But many of their big men were looking tired between breakdowns, and the Warriors were struggling to find holes. Worries about fatigue, and altitude, once again crept into the minds of Scottish or neutral onlookers.

The second half proved a different story with a Johan Goosen penalty set to be the Bulls’ only score in the game after that point. Glasgow upped their level of intensity with Jack Dempsey hard-charging to the fore (ending up on 21 tackles and 9 carries for more than 110 metres).

Luckily there were some sparks of “old” swashbuckling Glasgow, with Huw Jones’s match-sealing try an obvious high point.

Dempsey was unlucky to have a tearaway try chalked off that might have sealed him the Player of the Match award, but it was hard to pick a standout. Tuipulotu, both Fagersons, Matthews/Turner, Darge/Henco Venter, Steyn; all fantastic. With the Autumn still to come, Zander and Sione did their Lions credentials no harm either.

The final minutes felt depressingly familiar as, needing to defend their margin in the face of an onslaught by the home side, Glasgow then conceded a yellow card for a high hit by Tom Jordan (otherwise excellent) and the Bulls set up camp on their line for the try that would draw them level. Anyone who saw their soccer counterparts in the Euros knows that particular familiarity as tight games draw to a close.

For the Glasgow Warriors though, the result was different because they went out and made it different. There was nothing passive about this side.

With so little time left, thankfully it had to be a try for the home side (converted to win) so that kept the Bulls kicking for the corner, rather than taking three. Glasgow managed to stop them creeping inside for an easier conversion as they repelled lineout after lineout ever closer to their line.

It proved one maul too many in the end, as Glasgow managed to get underneath the ball once over the line. The ball was judged held up by referee Andrea Piardi, and there would be no further chances for Jake White’s men.

For Franco Smith’s men, the celebrations began.

6 Responses

  1. Congratulations Glasgow. Winning at Munster and then in the Bulls’ backyard a week later – superb stuff.

    Franco Smith and the boys – take a bow!

  2. I was worried that last week’s win at Thomond Park was Glasgow’s “final” but the performance today against the Bulls was stunning. Huge congratulations to Warriors.

  3. Just superb.

    Greatest ever tournament win in any sport by a Scottish team ?

    Has to be up there. Two extremely tough away fixtures to close it out.

    Scotland national team….take note !

  4. Great win by the Warriors. Given three consecutive knock-out ties away against strong sides, this one has to rank higher than the 2015 Pro 12 triumph. Just hoping, as an Edinburgh fan, that Edinburgh can take a few leaves out of the Warriors’ book for next season’s campaign.

    There was a never-say-die spirit in the Warriors this year in the knock-out stages and it was great to follow their progress – by live radio, for me!

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