Nine-try Bulls hammer Lyon to reach Champions Cup quarter-finals

Embrose Papier grabbed two tries and was sharp around the rucks in the Bulls’ rout of Lyon at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Embrose Papier grabbed two tries and was sharp around the rucks in the Bulls’ rout of Lyon at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 6, 2024


The Bulls scored some spectacular tries as they found their mojo once more to thrash Lyon 59-19 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

It wasn’t a faultless performance, but the Pretoria side grabbed nine touchdowns to three as they hit back from last week’s disappointing 47-14 United Rugby Championship loss to Leinster in Dublin in convincing fashion.

Jake White’s team were quickly out of the blocks to lead 21-0, and unlike last week against Leinster, they maintained their composure and output in the second half to pass the 50-point mark.

That was despite having lost co-captain and lock Ruan Nortjé before kickoff to injury, with 19-year-old JF van Heerden brought in at No 5, and now they will await the winner of Sunday’s last-16 clash between Northampton and Munster in England to determine their quarter-final opponents.

If Northampton win, then the Bulls will have to travel north, so they will hope for a Munster victory in order to host next weekend’s quarter-final at Loftus.

The Bulls opened their account in the 13th minute via wing Sebastian de Klerk, who had an easy finish out wide after strong carries by Gerhard Steenekamp and Marcell Coetzee.

The home side made life difficult for themselves with a number of unnecessary kicks on attack as they looked lethal and breached the hapless Lyon defence almost at will with ball-in-hand.

Player-of-the-Match Kurt-Lee Arendse got in on the action when he picked up a loose ball off a lineout and sped up the middle before putting scrumhalf Embrose Papier away for the second try in the 21st minute.

It didn’t take long for another Bok in Canan Moodie to make an impact as his line-break set up captain Coetzee’s touchdown, and even after Lyon No 9 Martin Page-Relo caught the Bulls napping from a quick tap penalty to register the French club’s first points, it was one-way traffic in the second half.

Well, at least for the last 30 minutes, as first Moodie got a yellow card and conceded a penalty try for a high tackle that stopped Page-Relo from scoring in the 48th minute.

It took just a few minutes for the Bulls to hit back as they showed better continuity with ball-in-hand and went through the phases, and then Kriel cut the line to feed Le Roux to make it 33-14.

Then the Bulls produced arguably their best try of the afternoon as De Klerk began a counter-attack from close to his own line by offloading to Arendse, and then several offloads from backs and forwards ended with Papier rounding it off.

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One of the few Lyon players to make an impact was Paarl-born former Junior Springbok and Sharks flyer Thaakir Abrahams, and the fullback was rewarded for some thrilling runs with a soft touchdown after Le Roux’s kick was charged-down.

But the Bulls added three more tries via Kriel, Chris Smith and De Klerk in the final 12 minutes to complete the rout.


Bulls 59 – Tries: Sebastian de Klerk (2), Embrose Papier (2), Marcell Coetzee, Ruan Vermaak, Willie le Roux, David Kriel, Chris Smith. Conversions: Johan Goosen (5), Smith (2).

Lyon 19 – Tries: Martin Page-Relo, Penalty Try, Thaakir Abrahams. Conversion: Paddy Jackson (1).