Home Sport True Warrior spirit drives Glasgow to URC title at packed Loftus Versfeld

True Warrior spirit drives Glasgow to URC title at packed Loftus Versfeld

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In front of a 50,388-strong crowd baying for a Bulls victory, Glasgow lived up to their Warriors nickname with a spirited defensive effort in the final quarter to hold the Bulls out and claim the trophy.

Marco van Staden scored a great opening try, but it was not enough for the Bulls to stop Glasgow Warriors in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship final at Loftus Versfeld. Picture: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

IT WAS absolute heartbreak for the Bulls as the Glasgow Warriors produced their finest performance this season to clinch the United Rugby Championship title with a 21-16 triumph at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

In front of a 50,388-strong crowd baying for a Bulls victory, Glasgow lived up to their Warriors nickname with a spirited defensive effort in the final quarter to hold the Bulls out and claim the trophy.

Jake White’s team were camping in the Glasgow 22 for the last few minutes, and set up a few line-out driving mauls after earning a couple of penalties, but it was just not to be for the men from Pretoria.

They launched one last line-out drive after the hooter had gone, but after an initial forward shove from the Bulls – with Akker van der Merwe looking like he could go all the way – the visitors managed to spin the South Africans around and hold up the home side just short of the line.

Italian referee Andrea Piardi ran around to see if the ball was available to the Bulls, but couldn’t see it, and blew his final whistle to pop the balloon on the party atmosphere at Loftus Versfeld.

It was a well deserved victory for coach Franco Smith’s Glasgow side, who were underdogs in the final after having to travel from Limerick in Ireland, where they had beaten defending champions Munster 17-10 in last week’s semi-final.

They absorbed tremendous pressure from the Bulls in the first half, with Johan Goosen slotting two penalties in the first 15 minutes.

The front row of Gerhard Steenkamp, Johan Grobbelaar and Wilco Louw were also dominant in the scrums, and the Scottish outfit had to defend desperately in their 22 to avoid conceding tries.

Louw went close, but was held by flank Rory Darge, but eventually in the 25th minute, Bulls No 6 Marco van Staden displayed excellent skill to release the ball after being tackled, and then picking it up again to barge his way over.

But the Bulls wasted a number of try-scoring opportunities as Glasgow scrambled in defence. One such chance saw fullback Devon Williams slice through with a thrilling line-break from his own 22, and he found Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse, who lacked support and saw his offload grabbed by the defence.

But with the hooter having already sounded for halftime, Glasgow kept going and put together several phases before lock Scott Cummings forced his way through to make it 13-7 at halftime.

That was just the injection that the visitors required, and despite a third Goosen penalty stretching the lead to 16-7, Glasgow were making life tough for the Bulls with pinpoint up-and-unders that kept the hosts in their half.

The blue wall eventually burst when replacement hooker George Turner rumbled over from a driving maul, and George Horne’s conversion made it a two-point game at 16-14 with 26 minutes to go.

It looked like a heavyweight boxer on the ropes as the Bulls lost their shape on attack, with several one-off runners battling to gain momentum as Glasgow’s forwards put their bodies on the line to drive their opponents back.

With 17 minutes left, former Stormers centre Huw Jones capped a superb individual display by racing over on the left after a multi-phase attack that saw Glasgow captain Kyle Steyn deliver the final pass, and Horne slotted the conversion to make it 21-16.

The visitors were all on top at that stage, but were denied a fourth try when No.8 Jack Dempsey grabbed an intercept as Arendse was tackled without the ball.

But just a few minutes later, after Horne missed a long-range penalty at the posts, Goosen rushed up to take a penalty kick to touch and instead booted the ball over the dead-ball line in the 74th minute.

The Bulls, though, kept fighting until the end, and a yellow card to Glasgow flyhalf Tom Jordan for a high tackle on Francois Klopper gave them their last chance to snatch a last-gasp victory.

However, Glasgow’s forwards stood up one last time to stop the Bulls maul and complete an unforgettable night in the South African capital.

Points-Scorers

Bulls 16 – Tries: Marco van Staden. Conversions: Johan Goosen (1). Penalties: Goosen (3).

Glasgow Warriors 21 – Tries: Scott Cummings, George Turner, Huw Jones. Conversions: George Horne (3).

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