South African URC teams stumble in Europe as Edinburgh and Ulster win

Planet Rugby
Marcell Coetzee of the Bulls and Ruan Nortje.

Marcell Coetzee of the Bulls and Ruan Nortje.

South African URC teams continue to struggle in Europe as the Bulls and Lions lost to Edinburgh and Ulster, respectively, on Friday evening.

The Bulls will rue their ill-discipline after Marcell Coetzee’s red card and Cameron Hanekom and Sergeal Petersen’s yellow cards proved costly in their 31-23 loss to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh hooker Ewan Ashman scored a first-half brace as they trailed the Bulls 13-11 at the break before second-half tries from Duhan van der Merwe and Viliame Mata secured the bonus-point victory, with Ben Healy kicking 11 points.

The Bulls got off to a strong start thanks to a try from Devon Williams, converted by Johan Goosen, who added two first-half penalties. Elrigh Louw’s score on the hour mark and a late Jaco van der Walt penalty gave the Bulls hope, but the Scottish side held out for the win.

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Edinburgh have now won four of their opening games to kick off the 2023/24 URC season.

Goosen gave the South Africans an eighth-minute lead with a delicate grubber that Williams got on the end of to touch down. Goosen added the conversion.

Healy hit back for Edinburgh with two penalties in quick succession before Goosen was on target with two penalties of his own to make it 13-6 after nearly half an hour.

Then Healy sent a penalty to the corner, and the pack drove from the lineout, with Ashman finishing off the try. The conversion attempt went wide.

The second half had hardly gotten underway when Coetzee was shown the red card. Bulls number eight Hanekom was sent to the sin-bin soon after, and that penalty went to touch too, and from the lineout drive, Ashman got try number two. Healy missed the conversion attempt, but at 16-13, Edinburgh were in the lead for the first time.

Then, with the Bulls still down to 13 men, Van der Merwe got his team’s third try after Mark Bennett and Blair Kinghorn had made the space for the winger.

Inside the final quarter, Mata finished off a powerful drive for the bonus-point try, and Healy – who had missed the Van der Merwe attempt – added the two points.

Louw got one back for the Bulls following a tap penalty, and Jaco van der Walt converted.

Mata was yellow-carded for shoulder-to-head contact on Lions centre Stedman Gans, and Van der Walt scored from the penalty to narrow the gap to 28-23.

On-loan Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Ali Price came off the bench in the second half for his Edinburgh debut.

Peterson was yellow-carded in the dying minutes for a deliberate knock-on. Healy’s successful penalty ended the game.

Ulster edge Lions on windy night

Ulster came from behind to beat the Lions 24-17 at a windswept Kingspan Stadium, scoring three tries to the visitors’ two in the game, which was in the balance throughout.

James Hume, Jacob Stockdale, and Rob Herring scored tries for Ulster, with Nathan Doak converting three and substitute John Cooney adding a late penalty.

Richard Kriel and Hanru Sirgel crossed for the Lions, Sanele Nohamba slotting two conversions and a penalty as they earned a losing bonus point.

After 11 minutes, wing Richard Kriel opened the scoring with a well-taken try from a cross-kick delivered with precision by stand-in fly-half Nohamba, and he then converted.

Henco van Wyk then had a try ruled out in the 24th minute after a knock-on by Marius Louw after an Ulster move broke down as the home side struggled to put any cohesive play together.

Just before the 30-minute mark, the Irish province finally made the breakthrough when Hume dived through after another sustained period of pressure. Doak tied the scores with his conversion.

But the Lions came again, and after several missed tackles on Van Wyk, the visitors took play to the line, and Sirgel drove over from close range. Nohamba again converted the 34th-minute score, and the half ended with the Lions leading 14-7.

A minute after the break, Ulster worked Stockdale over in the corner after working an overlap on the left. Doak’s conversion tied things up again.

But, once again, the Lions sneaked in front through a 44th-minute Nohamba penalty. This time, Ulster’s response was virtually immediate, and Herring drove off a maul to put the home team in the lead for the first time, Doak’s third conversion making it 21-17 to the province.

Nohamba was wide with a 60th-minute long-range penalty shot, and when Ulster got their own kickable chance in the 66th minute, Cooney, not long off the bench, slotted a penalty, which put Ulster 24-17 in front.

The hosts nearly had their bonus point try when Herring got close with six minutes to go, only for the score to be scrubbed out, and it ended with the Lions pressing hard near Ulster’s line.

Zebre score late to seal a draw

Zebre Parma scored a converted try five minutes into stoppage time to salvage a 22-22 draw against United Rugby Championship opponents Cardiff in northern Italy.

Replacement lock Leonard Krumov touched down following relentless pressure in the game’s final play, with fly-half Geronimo Prisciantelli’s conversion levelling things up.

A week on from ending a 28-game losing run after beating South African side the Sharks, Zebre went close to another success that would have meant them passing last season’s entire league points total in only their fifth match of the season.

Cardiff looked to have done enough as they overturned a one-point deficit during the final 14 minutes through a Tinus de Beer penalty and wing Mason Grady claiming his team’s third try.

De Beer also converted scores by centre Ben Thomas and number eight Lopeti Timani, highlighting Zebre’s weakness in that department after Prisciantelli and Jacopo Trulla missed 11 points between them off the tee.

Centres Franco Smith and Luca Morisi scored first-half tries for the home side, with Prisciantelli adding a conversion and penalty before Zebre’s late show denied Cardiff an away win.

Zebre predictably started brightly on the back of beating Sharks, but Cardiff weathered early pressure and struck from their first concerted attack. Thomas was prominent in build-up play before finishing strongly, with De Beer’s conversion opening up a seven-point lead before Prisciantelli drifted a 35-metre penalty chance wide.

Prisciantelli was again off-target five minutes later, wasting Zebre’s territorial dominance that they had established through impressive work by flankers Giacomo Ferrari and Iacopo Bianchi.

Scrum-half Alessandro Fusco was then yellow-carded by Scottish referee Mike Adamson for a dangerous tackle on Cardiff’s Wales international back Grady, increasing the home side’s degree of difficulty.

Wing Trulla completed a trio of penalty misses for Zebre, but they rocked Cardiff by scoring two tries in three minutes just before half-time.

Smith pounced for the opener after Zebre battered away at Cardiff’s defence from close range, and then his midfield partner Morisi struck following a flowing move that featured a key assist from wing Simone Gesi.

Wales forwards Corey Domachowski and Thomas Young went on as early second-half replacements, with Cardiff monopolising possession, and their reward came via a close-range effort from Timani that De Beer converted.

Prisciantelli edged Zebre back in front through a 62nd-minute penalty, yet it proved short-lived as De Beer struck from close range and made it 17-15 midway through the final quarter.

Grady’s score then looked to have broken Zebre’s resistance, but an admirable fightback reaped its reward when Krumov smashed through a tiring Cardiff defence.

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