The Vodacom Bulls and Lyon enthralled rugby fans with a 78-point game in round 1 of their Pool A game of the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup fixture. The Pretoria outfit ran in tries through Sibongile Novuka, Bernard van der Linde (x2), Nizaam Carr, Stravino Jacobs and Chris Barend Smit, to register a victory on debut in the competition.
Sibongile Novuka opened the account for the night, breaching the Lyon defensive line as he spotted a thin gap to go under the poles, 4mins into the match. Morne Steyn stepped up to convert the kick.
The Vodacom Bulls were on the scoreboard again as Nizaam Carr muscled his way through the French defense, falling short of the try line, but his work was good enough for scrum half, Bernard van der Linde to pick up and dot on the right edge of the poles. Steyn converted the second kick of the night and the hosts were in the lead 14-0 inside 8 minutes.
The hosts came under a bit of pressure, as Noa Nakaitaci burst through to advance the Lyon attack but a last-ditch defending denied the French attack. To counter the momentum of their guests, the hosts ran in their third try as Bernard van der Linde went over the white chalk for his second converted try of the night.
Lyon eventually got onto the board, successfully mauling over the line on the far end of the grandstand as Arno Botha powered over to get his side on the board. Leo Berdeu was on song to convert the try and the visiting Lyon were trailing by 21 points after 30 minutes of play.
Shortly before the break, Lyon found another try through what was an effective maul in the first stanza. This time, Liam Coltman went over the line but Leo Berdeu could not convert the tight angle and the two sides went into the break 28-12 in favour of the hosts.
Upon return for the second stanza, the Vodacom Bulls carried on their incredible first-half showing and sent Stravino Jacobs over the chalk for the hosts’ bonus point try. Once again, Steyn was pin-point-accurate with the kick and the hosts went 35-12 after 42 minutes of play.
Lyon wouldn’t take that lying down, stitching together a brilliant counter-offensive move on the near end of the grandstand as speedster, Ethan Dumortier hurried over the line for a converted try. The visitors found another break and this time, it was Arno Botha who added the bonus point try for the French club.
The game became an 11-point match with 50 minutes played on the clock.
The after-effects of playing in the highveld were vividly becoming visible as both sides played at an exceptionally high tempo. However, the experience of the visitors proved vital as they dotted another converted try to set up an enthralling run to the end.
Six points separated the two sides with 18 minutes left on the board.
Under some consistent pressure from their visitors, the Vodacom Bulls needed to build on their lead as the clock began to wind down and Outside half, Chris Barend Smith answered the call as he blitzed the Lyon defense – beginning with a dummy in midfield that created the gap before using his fresher legs and physicality to cut through the field and go over the line.
Steyn converted his sixth kick of the night, to stretch the lead to 13 with 13 minutes to play.
Lyon proved once again that they were not out of the game, as Kyle Godwin showed individual brilliance to go over the line for his side’s fifth of the night. Leaving the game tantalisingly close at 42-36 with 4 minutes left to play.
The final end of the match was nothing short of edge-of-your-seat drama as both sides engaged in a tug of war for a victory. In the end, the Vodacom Bulls had enough to defend their territory and registered a memorable 42-36 victory in Pretoria.
VODACOM BULLS SCORERS:
Tries: Sibongile Novuka, Bernard van der Linde x2, Nizaam Carr, Stravino Jacobs, Chris Smith
Conversions: Morne Steyn x6
VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV:
- Dylan Smith, 2. Bismarck Du Plessis, 3. Jacques van Rooyen, 4. Jacques Du Plessis, 5. Reinhardt Ludwig, 6. Nizaam Carr, 7. Wj Steenkamp, 8. Muller Uys, 9. Bernard van der Linde, 10. Morne Steyn (c), 11. Stravino Jacobs, 12. Marco Jansen van Vuren, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sibongile Novuka, 15. Wandisile Simelane
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD:
- Jan Hendrik Wessels, 17. Lizo Gqoboka, 18. Sebastian Lombard, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Phumzile Maqondwana, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Chris Barend Smith, 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