Late Bulls show tramples Dragons, Lions make history in Galway

Bulls wing Kurt-Lee Arendse shrugs off a tackle by Dragons fullback Cai Evans to score the opening try in Newport on Saturday night. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls wing Kurt-Lee Arendse shrugs off a tackle by Dragons fullback Cai Evans to score the opening try in Newport on Saturday night. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 23, 2024


The Bulls huffed and puffed, but it took them over 81 minutes to blow the Dragons’ house down as Johan Grobbelaar grabbed an injury-time touchdown to secure a 31-10 bonus-point victory in Newport on Saturday night.

The five log points saw the Bulls climb back up to second place on the United Rugby Championship standings on 45, four behind Leinster, who also got all five points in a 31-7 win over Zebre in Italy to move to 49.

The Bulls will now travel to Ireland to take on Leinster in Dublin next Friday.

Jake White’s team completed a clean sweep for South African teams on Saturday after the Sharks beat Ulster 22-12 in Durban, the Stormers trounced Edinburgh 43-21 in Cape Town and the Lions stunned Connacht 38-14 in Galway.

It was nearly a wasted night for the Bulls at Rodney Parade as a number of unforced errors and poor execution let them down, which saw them stuck on a 17-3 lead for about 30 minutes in the second half.

But in-form replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier showed his class to score a trademark solo try in the 76th minute to wake the Bulls up to the possibility of a four-try bonus point.

It duly arrived in the 82nd minute, with replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar controlling the ball smartly at the back of a maul to dot down and bring great relief to the Pretoria side.

White would have been delighted with the late show, but not as happy with the rest of the performance as the Bulls made life difficult for themselves to lead 10-3 at halftime.

Despite some terrific runs by Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse and hard running by inside centre Harold Vorster, the Bulls failed to capitalise on all the territory and possession earned by the forwards.

Just when it looked like the visitors were going to overwhelm the outgunned Dragons, a knock-on, forward pass or missed lineout halted their momentum.

Flyhalf Chris Smith produced two excellent 50-22 touch-finders as well, but all the Bulls had to show for it was a well-finished Arendse try following a maul in the 28th minute.

Dragons loose forwards Dan Lydiate and Taine Basham got stuck in on defence and at the breakdowns to frustrate the South Africans, even though the Bulls loose trio of Marco van Staden, Mpilo Gumede and Marcell Coetzee were edging their direct battle.

The Bulls were finally rewarded for their efforts through a lovely piece of skill as fullback Willie le Roux – who was one of the guilty culprits on the night with a couple of forward passes and a missed penalty to touch – pulled off a superb cross-kick to replacement wing Devon Williams, who’s soft hands put Gumede away down the left for their second try.

That sparked the Bulls into action, and they produced two memorable passages of play – both involving Arendse, who sliced through the Dragons defence – with the second attack seeing tighthead prop Wilco Louw dive over... only for the TMO to rule it out for a forward pass from Smith to Williams.

The Bulls’ lineout then missed out on a few opportunities, with the normally accurate Grobbelaar surprisingly missing his jumpers.

But as they have done a few times this season, the Bulls showed true composure with their thrilling late cameo, with Papier darting over following a strong Coetzee carry off a scrum, and then Grobbelaar finishing things off in fine style after the hooter.

* Despite a 17th-minute red card to tighthead prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye for a dangerous tackle, the Lions pulled off an historic 38-14 bonus-point victory over Connacht in Galway earlier on Saturday night to become the first South African team to win at The Sportsground.


Bulls 31 – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Mpilo Gumede, Embrose Papier, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Chris Smith (4). Penalty: Smith (1).

Dragons 10 – Try: Corey Baldwin. Conversions: Will Reed (1). Penalty: Cai Evans (1).

Lions 38 – Tries: JC Pretorius, Edwill van der Merwe, Erich Cronjé, Francke Horn (2), Morné van den Berg. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (4).

Connacht 14 – Tries: Cian Prendergast, JJ Hanrahan. Conversions: Hanrahan (2).