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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Bulls denied by late Scarlets try after remarkable comeback

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Durban – The Bulls staged a remarkable second-half comeback against the Scarlets on Friday night, but it wasn’t quite enough, and they will be kicking themselves all the way back to Pretoria for losing 37-28 when this United Rugby Championship match was there for the taking.

The Scarlets more than matched the Bulls physically in the first half, and they put the resulting quality possession to good use.

They were 3-0 up after two minutes and then scored three tries to accelerate into a 24-7 lead after just 20 minutes.

In the fifth minute, there was a burst of energy from the Bulls, and a multitude of phases in the opposition 22 saw scrumhalf Zak Burger wriggle through a gap for a try under the crossbar, but it was a false dawn.

The home team bounced straight back when flank Sam Davis scrambled over after what looked like a double movement, and then prop Kemsley Mattias muscled over.

Scrumhalf Gareth Davies completed a fine break-out try from the Scarlets’ 22, and then flyhalf Sam Costelow added a long-range three-pointer to his early penalty and three conversions for a 27-7 lead at the break.

A window of opportunity opened for the Bulls five minutes before halftime when Scarlets centre Joe Roberts was sin-binned for a professional foul, and the visitors took advantage when wing Stravino Jacobs scored from a Chris Smith cross-kick.

But the Scarlets scored first in the second half when Costelow kicked a penalty, and at 30-14, it looked a long way back for the Bulls.

They clawed seven points back when Cyle Brink burrowed over after a siege on the Scarlets’ line, and with their scrum now in total ascendancy, the opportunities to attack arose – but so did some poor handling errors, until prop Simphiwe Matanzima put a stop to the nonsense and charged over.

The Bulls now not only had a try-scoring bonus point, but were only two points adrift at 30-28 with 15 minutes to go.

They spent the last quarter of the match doing everything but score, and their lack of accuracy bit them on the backside when the beleaguered Scarlets broke out, and fullback Johnny McNicholl scored the match-clinching try four minutes from time.


Scarlets 37 – Tries: Sam Davies, Kemsley Mattias, Gareth Davies, Johnny McNicholl. Conversions: Sam Costelow (4). Penalties: Costelow (3).

Bulls 28 – Tries: Zak Burger, Stravino Jacobs, Cyle Brink, Simphiwe Matanzima. Conversions: Chris Smith (4).

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