The Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers produced impressive performances over the weekend for an encouraging double for the South African teams in the Investec Champions Cup, while the Hollywoodbets Sharks were the only local team to win their EPCR Challenge Cup match in a weekend of mixed fortunes.
The matches marked the penultimate round of pool matches for all the teams in the respective competitions, and despite the mixed bag of results, all five SA teams remain in the running for places in the round of 16.
In the Investec Champions Cup, the Vodacom Bulls earned a valuable 31-17 away win against the Bristol Bears in England, while the DHL Stormers defeated the Sale Sharks 31-24 in Cape Town.
With the Vodacom Bulls boasting a far superior points’ difference and a five-point lead over the chasing teams in the Investec Challenge Cup, they may need only one point from their last pool match against the Bordeaux Begles to guarantee their spot in the playoffs, while the DHL Stormers may need one or two points from their match against Stade Francais depending on the other results this week to make the cut.
The Hollywoodbets Sharks, meanwhile, registered a comprehensive 38-7 win against Oyannax in Durban in the EPCR Challenge Cup, while the Emirates Lions went down 13-3 to Montpellier in France, and the Toyota Cheetahs suffered a 33-20 defeat against Section Paloise in Amsterdam.
The Durbanites may also need one point from their final league match against the Dragons to make it through to the knock-outs, while the Emirates Lions did enough in their opening two matches to make it to the playoff rounds despite their defeat this past weekend.
The Toyota Cheetahs, in turn, will be under pressure to register a victory against Oyannax in France to make it through to the playoff stages with the other team in the running for a spot in the round of 16, the Dragons from Wales, playing in the last match of the weekend on Sunday.
Vodacom Bulls earn valuable away win against Bristol Bears
The Vodacom Bulls overcame two yellow cards and scored 21 second-half points against the Bristol Bears on Saturday to register an invaluable 31-17 away victory at Ashton Gate and stay in the running for a place in the Investec Champions Cup round of 16.
The visitors were a force to be reckoned with in the scrums in the second half and they backed this up with effective attacking play, which set them up for the bonus-point win.
The Pretoria side opened the scoring with a penalty goal by Johan Goosen in the sixth minute, and despite losing Goosen to a yellow card shortly after, they scored the first try of the match compliments of Sergeal Petersen, which David Kriel converted. The hosts hit back with a try minutes later to go into the break 10-7 down.
Bristol found themselves a man down early in the second half, and soon after the South Africans took control of the scoreboard as Khutha Mchunu, Elrigh Louw and Jan-Hendrik Wessels scored tries within 12 minutes to hand them a convincing 31-7 lead.
Unfortunately for the Vodacom Bulls they lost Louw to a yellow card with seven minutes to play, which paved the way for the Bristol Bears to score two late tries, but it was too little too late, with the visitors sealing the 31-17 victory.
Bristol Bears 17 (7) – Tries: Kieron Marmion, Gabriel Ibitoye, Magnus Bradbury. Conversion: AJ McGinty.
Vodacom Bulls 31 (10) – Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Khutha Mchunu, Elrigh Louw, Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversions: David Kriel, Johan Goosen (3). Penalty goal: Goosen.
DHL Stormers seal valuable bonus-point win against Sale
The DHL Stormers ensured that they stayed in the running for a playoff spot in the Investec Champions Cup as they sealed a much-needed bonus-point win against the Sale Sharks at the DHL Stadium on Saturday, with Leolin Zas touching down twice in their 31-24 victory.
The hosts started with a bang with Hacjivah Dayimani and Suleiman Hartzenberg crossing the tryline in the first 22 minutes, and Rugby World Cup-winning flyhalf Manie Libbok converted both to hand his team a 14-0 lead.
The rest of the half was a tight tussle with the Sale Sharks striking back with a try of their own before Zas scored the Capetonian’s third try of the game in the 34th minute, but the visitors kept the scoreboard ticking going into halftime as Augustin Creevy crossed the chalk, seeing the DHL Stormers go into the sheds 21-14 up.
Robert du Preez reduced the gap on the scoreboard for the visitors with a penalty goal minutes into the second half, but Zas’ second try in the 51st minute and a conversion and penalty goal by Libbok gave the DHL Stormers the boost they needed as they led 31-17 with 20 minutes to play.
The Sale Sharks continued to show their fight with Sam Bedlow scoring their third try of the match with 10 minutes left on the clock before receiving a yellow card shortly before the final whistle. The hosts opted for a shot at goal to deny the visitors a bonus point, but the attempt was unsuccessful – although this took nothing away from their brave display for the win.
DHL Stormers 31 (21) – Tries: Hacjivah Dayimani, Leolin Zas (2), Suleiman Hartzenberg. Conversions: Manie Libbok (4). Penalty goal: Libbok.
Sale Sharks 24 (14) – Tries: Jonny Hill, Augustin Creevy, Sam Bedlow. Conversions: Robert du Preez (3). Penalty goal: Du Preez.
Hollywoodbets Sharks outplay Oyonnax in Durban
The Hollywoodbets Sharks leaped to the top of their pool in the EPCR Challenge Cup on Saturday as they claimed their second victory in three matches with a commanding 38-7 win against Oyonnax at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.
Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks Ox Nche and Makazole Mapimpi both scored braces, while another RWC team-mate Lukhanyo Am also added one, as the KwaZulu-Natalians outscored the visitors six tries to one.
Nche was on fire scoring two tries in the first 20 minutes and the Hollywoodbets Sharks continued their dominance as the half progressed with Mapimpi adding his name to the scoreboard in the 33rd minute, while they denied Oyonnax a single point despite their determined efforts. This saw the hosts enter the break with a 19-0 lead.
Thibault Berthaud scored the visitors first and only try shortly after halftime, but it was one-way traffic on the scoreboard thereafter as Am, Lappies Labuschagne and Mapimpi touched down within 11 minutes to go up 38-7 shortly before the fourth quarter.
Both teams received yellow cards in the second stanza, but the Hollywoodbets Sharks’ ability to convert their chances into points saw them earn the morale-boosting victory.
Hollywoodbets Sharks 38 (19) – Tries: Ox Nche (2), Makazole Mapimpi (2), Lukhanyo Am, Lappies Labuschagne. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4).
Oyonnax 7 (0) – Try: Thibault Berthaud. Conversion: Justin Beraux.
Montpellier shut out Emirates Lions in France
The Emirates Lions delivered a massive defensive effort against Montpellier in their EPCR Challenge Cup match at the GGL Stadium on Saturday, but this was not enough to stop the hosts from claiming a 13-3 victory in their penultimate pool match, handing the Johannesburg side their first defeat in the competition.
Only three points were scored in the first half compliments of the Emirates Lions’ Jordan Hendrikse, although the hosts missed two strikes at goal in the first stanza which could have put them in the lead.
That penalty goal, however, proved to be the visitors’ only points of the match, as Montpellier’s determined efforts on attack paid off in the second half with a try by Geoffrey Doumayrou followed soon after by a penalty goal.
The French club added their second try, by South African-born French lock Paul Willemse, minutes before the final whistle, while the visitors were unable to respond.
Montpellier 13 (0) – Tries: Geoffrey Doumayrou, Paul Willemse. Penalty goal: Paolo Garbisi.
Emirates Lions 3 (3) – Penalty goal: Jordan Hendrikse.
Toyota Cheetahs denied in Amsterdam
Ill-discipline and the inability to convert possible try-scoring opportunities into points came at a big cost for the Toyota Cheetahs as they went down 33-20 against Section Paloise in their EPCR Challenge match in Amsterdam on Sunday.
The French outfit took a 14-0 lead by the 14th minute after scoring two converted tries, which put the Free Staters on the backfoot early on. They managed to reduce their deficit minutes before halftime as Munier Hartzenberg and Jeandre Rudolph crossed the chalk – the latter of which was when the opposition was reduced to 14 men – but a penalty goal by Axel Desperes in between pushed Pau 17-12 ahead at halftime.
Thibalt Debaes had the first say in the second half with a penalty goal before they received another yellow card, and the Toyota Cheetahs took full advantage of this with Louis van der Westhuizen scoring their third try shortly before the fourth quarter, which forced them back into the game at 20-17 down.
Their ill-discipline, however, cost them as the French club added two penalty goals with the Toyota Cheetahs also losing Rynier Bernardo to the sin bin in between, but a vital penalty goal by Ruan Pienaar in the 71st minute kept them within six points of the visitors on the scoreboard.
Their hopes of a victory or potential losing bonus point, however, were dashed soon after as Section Paloise scored their third try with six minutes left on the clock and the successful conversion saw them take a 33-20 lead, which they managed to hold onto until the final whistle to hand the Bloemfontein team their first defeat in the competition.
Toyota Cheetahs 20 (12) – Tries: Munier Hartzenberg, Jeandre Rudolph, Louis van der Westhuizen. Conversion: Ruan Pienaar. Penalty goal: Pienaar.
Section Paloise 33 (17) – Tries: Jack Maddocks, Emilien Gailleton, Dan Robson. Conversions: Axel Desperes (2), Thibalt Debaes. Penalty goals: Desperes (4).