The 2022/23 season of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship got off to a flying start on the weekend, with the Vodacom Bulls setting the tone on local soil while two of last season’s quarter-finalists were beaten on the road.
Defending champions, the DHL Stormers, and the Cell C Sharks will join the action this weekend, while Irish giants Leinster and Ulster will look to build on their first-round victories.
The Vodacom Bulls were too good for their neighbours to the south, the Emirates Lions, and won their Gauteng Derby by 31-15, with Chris Smith (flyhalf) contributing 14 points.
Leinster were made to work very hard for a 33-29 win in Italy against Zebre Parma, and Ulster beat Connacht by 36-10 in an Irish derby, but the biggest victory of the weekend belonged to Edinburgh, who fired all the shots in their 44-6 home victory over Dragons.
Benetton beat last season’s quarter-finalists Glasgow Warriors in Treviso (33-11) in the weekend’s opening clash on Friday night, Cardiff were too strong for Munster in the Welsh capital (20-13), and Ospreys scored a late converted try to draw with Scarlets in a Welsh derby (23-23).
The Vodacom Bulls got their Vodacom URC campaign off to a winning start when they defeated provincial neighbours the Emirates Lions by 31-15 (half-time 15-8) in their opening round encounter at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
The men from Pretoria scored early, through their hard-working captain Marcell Coetzee – who was also named Man of the Match – and when Cornal Hendricks went over following a superb attack that was started by their new recruit Wandisile Simelane, playing against his former team, the visitors looked to be in control at 15-3.
The hosts never gave up though and drew level shortly after the break courtesy of tries by Francke Horn and Marius Louw, who had joined them from the Cell C Sharks during the off-season. At 15-15 with 35 minutes to go, the result was anyone’s for the taking.
However, the Vodacom Bulls then took control of the encounter through three Smith penalty goals and put the result beyond any doubt when Jan-Hendrik Wessels went over in the 72nd minute for their third try.
Emirates Lions 15 (8) – Tries: Francke Horn, Marius Louw. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goal: Hendrikse.
Vodacom Bulls 31 (15) – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Cornal Hendricks, Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversions: Chris Smith, Morne Steyn. Penalty goals: Smith (4).