Glasgow Warriors clinch historic URC Grand Final title as thrilling comeback sees off Blue Bulls

-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)
-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)

Glasgow were tonight celebrating the greatest win in their history after they fought back from 13-0 down to beat the Bulls in the URC Grand Final.

It is the Warriors’ first trophy since they won the old PRO12 back in 2015 when Gregor Townsend was head coach. That game has gone down in history, but it is eclipsed by this one. The Bulls were the favourites for the game, played at altitude on their home ground at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. The Warriors had little time to prepare after flying to South Africa - but somehow they finished the stronger side.

It was only six weeks since the two teams had last met at the same ground. That was in the regular season, when the Bulls raced into a 37-10 lead before a late comeback by the Warriors ended with them snatching two bonus points in a 40-34 loss. Everyone in the Scots squad reckoned they could not afford to give their hosts such a big lead again. It did not get anything like that bad, right enough, but the first 39 minutes and more went very much against them.

It took the Bulls barely 90 seconds to open the scoring. Jack Dempsey was penalised for not releasing, and Johan Goosen coolly knocked over the penalty from out wide.

The Warriors attack began to come into its own a little after that, but their first real offensive was ended when a kick through by Huw Jones was cleared by Bulls winger Kurt-Lee Arendse. Then, with quarter of an hour on the clock, Jamie Bhatti was penalised right in front of his own posts - like Dempsey, for not rolling away. Goosen made no mistake and it was 6-0.

Midway through the half, the Bulls thought they had scored a try to add to the two penalties as Wilco Louw drove over the line. But Rory Darge got underneath him, and the referee ruled there was no clear grounding of the ball.

But the touchdown was only delayed, as five minutes later Marco van Staden drove over on his own from the back of a maul. The back-row forward was half-held at one point, but he got back to his feet and powered on across the line. Goosen’s conversion made it 13-0.

Glasgow were still under the cosh as half-time neared, and after a Devon Williams break-out, winger Sebastian Cancelliere put in a try-saving tackle on Arendse. But then, as the clock went past the 40-minute mark, the Warriors hit back at last. Matt Fagerson drove close to the line. Darge drove closer still. And then Scott Cummings finished off from two metres out.

Warriors' Kyle Steyn almost scores a try -Credit:SNS Group
Warriors' Kyle Steyn almost scores a try -Credit:SNS Group

George Horne converted, and a match that had looked pretty one-sided at 13-0 was back in the melting point: 13-7 at half-time. Glasgow dominated the early stages of the second half, but it was the Bulls who got the next score - a 52nd-minute penalty by Goosen.

But the Scots hit back within two minutes. George Turner, playing his last game for the club before moving to Japan, finished off from the back of a lineout maul after a penalty had gone to touch. Horne’s conversion closed the gap to 16-14.

Then inside the final quarter the Warriors struck again to go ahead for the first time. Kyle Steyn began a brilliant attacking move, and after the ball had gone through many pairs of hands it was the captain who provided the assist as he put Huw Jones through for his team’s second try. Horne converted: 16-21.

It looked like it had got even better for the visitors a few minutes later when Jack Dempsey collected a stray ball and ran in from inside his own half to touch down behind the Bulls posts. But referee Andrea Piardi chalked off the score, calling play back for a marginally late tackle by Turner.

Eight minutes from time Horne missed for the first time in the game with a long-range penalty that fell just short. That could have been a costly miss but then Goosen sent a penalty dead instead of finding a touch.

The Bulls fought on after that mistake, and they were still on the attack right to the end. But even though Glasgow had Tom Jordan sin-binned for a high tackle two minutes from time, they held on for a brilliant victory.