The Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks secured valuable away victories for the South African Vodacom United Rugby Championship teams on their short one-week tours of Europe this weekend, while the DHL Stormers lost out narrowly in what marked their first defeat this year.
The Vodacom Bulls dominated their clash against Zebre Parma completely in Parma scoring six tries to one by the hosts for a rewarding 45-7 victory on Friday, while the Cell C Sharks outplayed Benetton 29-7 in Treviso on Saturday scoring four tries in the process.
The DHL Stormers, meanwhile, were pipped 19-17 by Connacht in Galway in windy conditions, with a conversion being the difference between the teams on the scoreboard in the end, while log-leaders, Leinster, broke away in the second half against the Emirates Lions for a 21-13 victory in Dublin.
These results saw the Cell C Sharks displace the DHL Stormers as the top ranked South African franchise on the log in eighth position with 26 points, while the Capetonians finished the weekend in ninth place with 24 points, followed closely by the Vodacom Bulls in 10th place with 23 points. The Emirates Lions are further down the standings in 14th place with 12 points.
Impressive Vodacom Bulls win in Parma
The Vodacom Bulls flexed their Vodacom United Rugby Championship muscles in an impressive way in Parma on Saturday, beating Zebre 45-7 in a six-try romp at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Despite a slow start, and conceding the first try of the match, the South Africans bulldozed their way past the home side, scoring six unanswered tries and reminding all of their abilities in this competition.
They scored three tries in each half, but Director of Rugby Jake White will most likely look at the second 40 minutes as a potential blueprint for the remainder of the competition.
The first half showed a lot of endeavour from the Pretoria side, but they lacked patience and discipline to make it work for them, but when things began to click they entered the break 17-7 ahead.
The second half belonged to the Vodacom Bulls, who had territorial advantage and made it work well, which saw the side cross the tryline six times in total, while flyhalf Chris Smith had a good day with the boot slotting six conversions and a penalty goal for a personal tally of 15 points.
Sharks secure rewarding victory against Benetton in Vodacom URC
The Cell C Sharks registered a rewarding 29-7 bonus point win against Benetton at Stadio Monigo in Treviso on Saturday, outscoring the hosts four tries to one in a morale-boosting performance in the north versus south showpiece.
The Cell C Sharks broke away in the first half scoring three tries by Ruben van Heerden (lock), Aphelele Fassi (fullback) and Phepsi Buthelezi (No 8) and they backed this up with solid defence which saw them enter the break with an encouraging 21-0 lead.
The second half was tighter, which saw each of the teams cross the tryline only once, with Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi earning their bonus-point try in the dying minutes to add to an earlier penalty goal by Curwin Bosch (flyhalf) for the 29-7 victory.
DHL Stormers pipped in Galway
The DHL Stormers fell away in the second half of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash against Connacht at The Sportsground in Galway on Saturday, going down 19-17 in a match that just as easily could have gone their way.
DHL Stormers held a 10-7 lead early in the second half, but yellow cards to Sergeal Petersen (fullback) for a deliberate knock-down and Ruhan Nel (centre) for a high tackle cost them dearly as the home side scored twice in that time to edge ahead and stay ahead.
The Cape side still had a chance to seal the deal after the hooter with a promising attack, but a forward pass ruined that opportunity, and they left the field two points shy of a win.
The first half was a tight affair. Strong winds in Galway created havoc affecting the kickers and handling of both sides in the early stages, but the result came down to goal-kicking in the end as Petersen, Damian Willemse (centre), Manie Libbok (flyhalf) scored the visitors’ three tries, while Libbok slotted over one conversion, while the hosts kicked two of their three conversions as the teams were level on tries scored.
Emirates Lions go down fighting against Leinster
The Emirates Lions went down fighting against Vodacom United Rugby Championship log leaders Leinster, having to settle for a 21-13 defeat, at the RDS Arena in a thrilling encounter in Dublin on Friday night.
The first half was a gritty affair as both teams ran hard on attack and created opportunities, but a combination of solid defence and attacking errors, saw Leinster score only one try in the half to two penalty goals by the Emirates Lions, which left the visitors trailing 7-6 at the break.
Leinster hit back with two tries in quick succession in the second half and delivered a courageous defensive effort to limit the visitors to one try in the dying minutes, which was enough to secure them their ninth victory of the season.
Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen and his team, however, will take a lot of confidence from their brave performance after losing four matches on the trot this season, as they showed courage on attack and defence, which will give them confidence going forward in the competition.