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The Vodacom Bulls overcame Leinster 25-20 in a thrilling semi-final in Pretoria to reach their second Vodacom United Rugby Championship final in three years.

Two tries from Sergeal Petersen and another from Johan Goosen, who contributed 15 points, saw the Bulls claim a hard-fought victory at Loftus Versfeld .

Leinster responded with tries from James Lowe and Caelan Doris, but their bid for a ninth URC title and a first trophy since 2021 fell just short.

A frantic opening failed to produce points as the defensive quality on show matched that of both attacks.

The Bulls were winning the kicking battle and wings Petersen and Devon Williams had chances to score before the hosts did cross after 19 minutes.

Willie Le Roux’s catch and pass in the same movement sent Williams into the corner, but the try was disallowed as Bulls flanker Marco van Staden had taken out Ross Byrne off the ball.

Bulls were reduced to 14 men by Petersen’s deliberate knock-on and Leinster took instant advantage of the yellow card.

The Irish province drove to the line and Byrne slipped a clever pass for wing Lowe to make the corner.

Byrne added the extras for a seven-point lead, but Bulls fought back strongly despite being a man down.

Goosen cut a brilliant line from Embrose Papier’s pass to cross unopposed and the outside-half levelled the scores with a simple conversion.

Bulls remained on top with their full complement restored and the Leinster scrum showed signs of discomfort.

Goosen landed an angled 25-metre penalty to put Bulls ahead 10-7 at the break.

The South African outfit, who were beaten by domestic rivals the DHL Stormers in the 2022 final, extended their lead within two minutes of the restart as Harold Worster delivered a delightful kick down the touchline.

Petersen gathered to race in and Goosen converted, but Leinster stormed straight back just as it appeared the Bulls would dominate the closing stages at altitude.

Caelan Doris powered over from close range after Leinster had turned down the opportunity to take an easy three points and Byrne added the extras from under the posts.

Leinster levelled matters near the hour mark after a brilliant kick and collect from Lowe forced a Bulls error and a successful Byrne penalty.

Goosen and Byrne exchanged kicks as the see-saw nature of a high-quality contest continued.

There were 13 minutes left when Petersen beat replacement Ciaran Frawley to Papier’s Garryowen.

Petersen touched the ball past Frawley and pulled it down to race clear, and Leinster could not rescue the situation in a pulsating finish.

Vodacom Man of the Match
Cameron Hanekom gave an outstanding all-action performance in defence and attack. The Bulls number eight was never far from the fray whether he was putting the Bulls on the front foot with powerful bursts or producing some ferocious hits. One crunching tackle on opposite number Caelan Doris will live long in the memory.

Play of the Match
There was some outstanding handling on show with both sides keen to move the ball. Bulls displayed their clinical side at the start of the second half as centre Harold Worster offered width and sent a perfect grubber kick down the touchline. Sergeal Petersen had swapped wings to collect and raced in without the Leinster defence laying a hand on him.

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