Exeter Chiefs handed the Vodacom Bulls their first defeat of the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup campaign, outmuscling the Pretoria outfit at the Sandy Park Stadium. Captain and English player, Luke Cowan-Dickie led from the front, scoring a hattrick of tries as his team outscored the herd by six tries to two in Exeter.
The Vodacom Bulls opened their bank account with a brilliant team try that saw Stravino Jacobs break the defensive line of the Chiefs, finding a narrow gap to blitz for the line. Morne Steyn slotted the conversion and the visiting Pretoria herd were beaming with confidence.
Despite their consistent attack at their hosts, the Vodacom Bulls could not find a second try inside the first half, narrowly missing out on certain chances whilst also being denied a try adjudged by the referee.
Exeter Chiefs were very effective with their maul and they employed it well – to their advantage – as they went over the line four times and slotted in two penalties during the course of the first stanza.
Going into the break, the hosts led from the front with a 25-point cushion, thanks to their four tries to one of the Vodacom Bulls, leaving the scores at 32-7.
Once the two teams returned for the second bite of the cherry, it was the hosts that started off where they left off, dotting down their fifth inside the opening four minutes of their return.
Needing to respond and find a way back onto the points system, the Vodacom Bulls slowed down the game, building forward momentum and in the 53rd minute, the Pretoria outfit were rewarded. From a lineout, captain Steyn delicately chipped the ball over the Chiefs’ defensive line and Chris Barend Smit was on standby to receive the ball (after some fortuitous bounce) to finish the move over the line for their second of the afternoon in Exeter. Steyn converted the try to take his side to 14 points.
The Chiefs quickly responded in kind, going over for their sixth try – a minute later – to stretch their lead to 30 points with 35 minutes to play. The remainder of the game was scrappy as neither side could put on the finishing touches to their moves but it was the visitors who looked the more threatening to score, even though in the end; neither side would go on to score.
The Vodacom Bulls had a better run in the second half, restricting Exeter Chiefs to just two tries versus their one. In the end, the English Premiership outfit recorded a bonus point 44-14 victory.
BBCo. Director of Rugby, Jake White said that despite the loss, there were positives to take from the outing.
“We came and played against an experienced side but our guys did not take it lying down. If you look at that second half, bringing on more young guys against their experienced players and yet they (Vodacom Bulls) did not give up. Sometimes you get rewarded and sometimes you don’t.”
“Bismarck could have scored; Ludwig could have also scored and that could have changed the complexion of the game. We were in the game and that was pleasing to see,”
“When you are not winning, you have got to learn; this is what I said to the guys. One thing I would like to learn is that when we get to the other team’s 22m lines, we have got to be as ruthless as possible,”
“They (Exeter) are such a good team and I have no doubt they will be there in the end. They will have some guys who will return later in the competition as well and so I have no doubt they will be there in the end of this competition. I do hope that when they visit Pretoria, we will also be able to get one over them,”
“You cannot play the same guys every week and because we are capped at 32 games a season, we have to manage the situation. I am disappointed but I am confident that we will get it right. Sometimes you lose the battle but end up winning the war” White concluded.
VODACOM BULLS SCORERS
Tries: Stravino Jacobs x1, Chris Barend Smit x1
Conversions: Morne Steyn x2
VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV:
1. Dylan Smith, 2. Bismarck Du Plessis, 3. Jacques van Rooyen, 4. Reinhardt Ludwig, 5. Janko Swanepoel, 6. Nizaam Carr, 7. Muller Uys, 8. Wj Steenkamp, 9. Bernard van der Linde, 10. Morne Steyn (c), 11. Stravino Jacobs, 12. Chris Barend Smit, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sibongile Novuka, 15. Wandisile Simelane
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD:
16. Lizo Gqoboka, 17. Joe van Zyl, 18. Sebastian Lombard, 19. Cameron Hanekom, 20. Phumzile Maqondwana, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Carlton Bannies, 23. Juan Mostert
MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Nollis Marais – Breakdown, Russell Winter – Forwards, Chris Rossouw – Backs, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist
VODACOM BULLS HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP FIXTURES:
Saturday, 10 December 2022: Vodacom Bulls 42-36 Lyon
Saturday, 17 December 2022: Exeter Chiefs 44-14 Vodacom Bulls
Saturday, 14 January 2023: Vodacom Bulls vs Exeter Chiefs
Friday, 20 January 2023: Lyon vs Vodacom Bulls