United Rugby Championship: Brilliant Bulls stun Leinster to reach final

Colin Newboult

Johan Grobbelaar of the Bulls during the United Rugby Championship 2021/22 game between the Stormers and the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on 9 April 2022 © Ryan Wilkisky/Sports Inc

The Bulls produced an outstanding display to defeat title favourites Leinster 27-26 and reach the United Rugby Championship final.

Few thought a victory was possible for the South Africans but their pack was superb as they put the Irish province under pressure throughout.

The back-row of Marcell Coetzee, Arno Botha and Elrigh Louw were particularly excellent while hooker Johan Grobbelaar was an absolute menace at the breakdown.

Two of those players, Grobbelaar and Coetzee, touched down in the first half to give the visitors a 17-7 lead after half-an-hour.

Dan Sheehan had given the home team the advantage early in the encounter, but the hooker struggled at the lineout as the Bulls continually competed in the air.

Although Robbie Henshaw responded for Leinster, those set-piece struggles remained in the second period and the South Africans capitalised, sealing the win thanks to a penalty try and Morne Steyn’s three-pointer.

Rory O’Loughlin briefly gave the hosts hope and they had the final word through Cian Healy’s late score, but the Bulls deservedly claimed the win, ending the Irishmen’s run of four successive league titles.

Click here for teams and scorers

Jake White’s charges stood up well to Leinster’s initial attacks, but Sheehan turned a Ross Byrne kick through into an opportunist ninth-minute try.

The Bulls, who got on the board with a Chris Smith penalty, then ramped up their physicality to touch down in the 19th and 24th minutes.

Canan Moodie’s knock-on over the try-line was forgiven when hooker Grobbelaar barged over from a tap penalty. Smith converted with the aid of the post.

Louw’s powerful carrying soon got them back into scoring range, Coetzee the beneficiary of Zak Burger’s short pass to go in under the posts to make it 17-7.

Leinster hit back when they brilliantly got on the outside in the 32nd minute before Henshaw stretched out to score. Byrne’s conversion restored the three-point gap, but the Bulls remained on the front foot.

Number eight Louw again led the charge for the Pretoria-based side on the restart. Grobbelaar controlled an advancing maul and Leinster coughed up a penalty try with James Ryan sin-binned for the collapse.

Not even the appearance of Johnny Sexton could inspire an error-strewn Leinster, despite a sharp attack giving them a lifeline with 11 minutes remaining as O’Loughlin was released for the left corner.

Replacement Steyn’s 76th-minute penalty duly had the Bulls out of reach before Healy burrowed over past the 80-minute mark.

READ MORE: Stormers add Damian Willemse while Ulster travel to Cape Town with unchanged XV