Winners and losers from the URC after famous wins and officiating difficulties

Jared Wright
Munster fly-half Jack Crowley and referee Mike Adamson in the United Rugby Championship.

Munster fly-half Jack Crowley and referee Mike Adamson in the United Rugby Championship.

Following a thrilling weekend of United Rugby Championship action, we select the winners and losers from the weekend’s action.


Ospreys’ famous win

On Saturday, the Ospreys joined an elite group of teams as they became just the third team to defeat the Stormers in Cape Town. Before them, only Munster (twice) and the Lions had managed to defeat the inaugural champions on their home turf.

It was a marvellous performance by Toby Booth’s charges, who dominated the game for much of the 80 minutes, so much so that many of his players were disappointed at full-time that the Stormers had got a losing bonus point from the fixture.

The Ospreys are now comfortably in the race for a place in the playoffs and perhaps even a home quarter-final, but they will need to back up their stunning showing in Cape Town with a similar one in Pretoria.

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Getting a result in South Africa is no easy feat, but there were two superb performances to seal wins this weekend, with Munster claiming their maiden victory at Loftus Versveld.

Graham Rowntree and his coaching team clearly had a plan to beat the Bulls at altitude with a stacked bench that ultimately got them over the line. Munster bossed the opening stages of the match and led 10-17 at the break before the Bulls wrestled momentum into their favour and led 22-17.

Johan Goosen’s red card assisted the Irish province, more on that later, but Munster dominated the latter stages to secure a memorable win, with club legend Conor Murray scoring an all-important try.

It was a superb performance from the Munstermen that was in response to their Investec Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Northampton Saints.

Glasgow Warriors

It was quite clear when the Sharks named their matchday squad that they were turning their focus to the Challenge Cup after a poor URC campaign, but Franco Smith’s side still needed to get over the line.

The youthful Sharks side put up a strong fight in Glasgow, but in the end, Smith’s charges were good enough to claim a 21-10 victory.

The one regret that the Warriors will have was their inability to claim a bonus point from the match, which would have seen them draw level with Leinster on the overall log.

However, with a youthful Leinster side touring South Africa, they should be able to leapfrog the Irish province next week when they take on Zebre.


The Italian side continued their bid for a URC playoff match with a 36-19 victory over the Dragons.

The victory over the Dragons was Marco Bortolami’s side’s eighth of the season, matching the tally that they racked up during the 2022/23 campaign.

They are now well-placed for a spot in the playoffs but will need to put together another strong performance next weekend against fellow playoff hopefuls Ulster.

It’s been a memorable year already for Italian Rugby, and Benetton’s continued success in the URC is just another positive, perhaps they could replicate their efforts in the Rainbow Cup this season.


The playoff race is really heating up, and for Connacht, their clash against Zebre could make or break their season. They needed a bonus point win at least and duly delivered, running in eight tries to Zebre’s two.

Pete Wilkins’ side still has a lot of work to do if they are to make up ground on the leading pack, but that win over Zebre has put them in a strong position as the run-in continues.

The Lions

It may have been a second-string Leinster side that tackled the Lions at the rugby cathedral that is Ellis Park on Saturday, but that mattered little to the faithful in attendance.

It’s been a tough watch for Lions fans in recent seasons after their previous success of reaching back-to-back Super Rugby finals but on Saturday, there was real sense of optimism and joy when Francke Horn went over the try line for the Lions’ sixth try against the Irish juggernaut.

In fact, the fans couldn’t even contain their celebrations long enough to allow Jordan Hendrikse to take the final conversion as they invaded the pitch. It was a glorious performance from the men from Johannesburg, who are never afraid to express themselves with the ball in hand.

Perhaps what might get the fans even more excited is former head coach Johann Ackermann openly expressing his desire to coach in South Africa again and who knows, maybe he could return as the side’s director of rugby.

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Four league points looked to be in the when Theo Cabanago raced over for his hat-trick score, only for the play to be called back for Rhys Carre’s knock-on. It was a call, whether correct or incorret, that cost Cardiff the match and perhaps a place in the tournament’s knockout stages.

There are just 15 points separating top-placed Leinster and 11th-placed Lions in the race for a place in the last eight. However, the gap between the Lions and Cardiff grew to 14 points this weekend all but ending their chance of a late playoff run.

Rubbing salt in the wounds of the Cardiff fans was the sight of Taulupe Faletau trudging off the pitch with another serious-looking injury in his first game back since October last year.

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Johan Goosen

From hero to zero, Johan Goosen was enjoying a fine outing for the Bulls in their clash against Munster until a rash moment saw him receive his marching orders.

The fly-half’s actions sparked a try for the Pretoria-based side, but that was ruled out, and momentum firmly swung in the visitors’ favour and ultimately led to the Bulls’ downfall.

Jake White and the Bulls

Staying with the Bulls and Goosen’s red card led to Jake White side’s undoing and meant that their gamble of sending a largely changed side to Northampton for the Investec Champions Cup quarter-final backfired.

The Bulls were inaccurate on Saturday, and while there were a few notable individual performances, overall, they were flat and withered as the game went on.

White’s charges earned just one point from the defeat to Munster, but if they had been more accurate, they would have easily claimed five, moving them just five points adrift of Leinster.


Leinster are battling on two fronts, having reached the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals and still leading the URC standings.

Leo Cullen’s side comfortably defeated Leicester Tigers and La Rochelle in their playoff matches, but they were always going to have to rotate their squad, particularly with a trip to South Africa. This time, the rookie squad was not able to claim a win as they fell to a determined Lions outfit.

The loss has seen the chasing pack gain ground on them in the standings, and with another testing fixture against the Stormers next week, Leinster will need a win to retain their place at the top.


Stormers boss John Dobson apologised for what he described as his side’s “worst performance” as they were bettered by Ospreys sustaining just their fourth home URC defeat.

Like much of the chasing pack, the Lions’ win over Leinster gave the Stormers a chance to make up some ground, but instead, they failed to get over the line against the Welsh outfit.

The Stormers scored two stunning tries and managed to eke out a losing bonus point with a penalty try in the final play of the match. However, they were their worst enemy at times and looked somewhat dull overall.

The officials

It was a particularly challenging weekend for the match officials, with so many tight and hard-fought encounters producing difficult decisions.

Thomas Young’s non-try and Rhys Carre’s knock-on were hotly debated, while Johan Goosen’s red card was also scrutinised after the officials overlooked other incidents earlier in the game.

The Welsh Rugby Union felt strongly enough to suggest that Cardiff were robbed in Belfast, which is certainly a bad look for the league and the union.

It’s bound to be a long week for the URC’s head of referees, Tappe Henning.

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