Bulls hammer Lyon to make Champions Cup quarters

rugby06 April 2024 13:25
By:Brenden Nel
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Kirt-Lee Arendse and Embrose Papier © Gallo Images

After their mauling at the hands of Leinster last weekend, Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White had demanded a response from his side.

On Saturday, they emphatically answered that call, demolishing French side Lyon 59-19 in their Investec Champions Cup round-of-16 clash at Loftus Versfeld.

It was a pity that only 7 554 fans turned up for the lunchtime clash, but the sanity in scheduling the game at the same time as a massive school derby down the road didn’t help.

Still, those who were there saw a classy Bulls performance that kept up their unbeaten home record against European opposition and the reputation of Loftus Versfeld as a fortress intact.

The Bulls now will have to wait to see which of Northampton or Munster survive their clash later on Sunday. A Northampton win would see the Bulls head north for a quarterfinal while the Irish side would head to Loftus if they win that game.

Even though the Bulls lost Ruan Nortje before the game to injury, his replacement - 19-year-old JF Van Heerden - was a colossus in both the lineouts and general play. The former Grey College prodigy certainly has a bright future ahead of him.

But it was a day that everything seemed to click for the Bulls. From Johan Goosen’s kicking game to Willie le Roux’s flat passes, the Bulls did so many things right it was almost as if it was a different side that played in Dublin a week earlier.

Lyon actually started the stronger side, and had the Bulls pinned in their 22 but the defence held out for the opening barrage in style.

And then the Bulls struck. A penalty to the corner, lineout maul and several forays at the line set things up for Le Roux’s massive long pass to find winger Sebastian de Klerk in the corner.

Seven minutes later the Bulls burgled their second try, this time from an overthrown Lyon lineout that was pounced on by Kurt-Lee Arendse, who danced past the defence and then offloaded inside for Embrose Papier to score his first try.

Before the half-hour, Marcell Coetzee had his name on the scoreboard in an attack that started with a Canan Moodie break and it looked as if the Bulls were going to run Lyon ragged.


Lyon snuck back a try with a quick tap penalty that saw Martin Page-Relo go over untouched. The Bulls complained that there were medics on the field, but referee Luke Pearce ignored their pleas and the try stood.

The home side hit back almost immediately though, as Ruan Vermaak powered over from close range to take them into halftime with a 28-7 lead.

Lyon started strongly in the second half and a break from Monty Ioane led to their second try, as Xavier Mignot collected a chip but was taken out high by Moodie near the line, leading to a yellow card and penalty try.

But with him in the sin-bin, the Bulls scored twice - first from a David Kriel break that put Willie le Roux in at the corner and then probably the try of the season for the Bulls, starting five metres from their own line.

Sebastian de Klerk collected a ball kicked through, evaded a defender and gave it to the elusive Arendse, who took the ball up 20 metres, but then a series of surges from Akker van der Merwe, Elrigh Louw, Mornay Smith, Gerhard Steenekamp and finally Papier saw exceptional interplay and a 95-metre try that should make every highlight reel of the season.

Lyon added a third try when Le Roux’s poor clearance was charged down and Thaakir Abrahams grabbed the ball and the try.

From there, the Bulls pinned their ears back and David Kriel intercepted, Chris Smith scored and finally De Klerk got his second to complete the rout.

As a response from the Dublin mauling, it was exceptional. But it was also a warning that this Bulls team will be very difficult to beat in Pretoria, whoever the opposition is.


Vodacom Bulls - tries: Sebastian de Klerk (2), Embrose Papier (2), Marcell Coetzee, Ruan Vermaak, Willie le Roux, David Kriel, Chris Smith

Conversions: Johan Goosen (6), Chris Smith.

Lyon - tries: Martin Page-Relo, Penalty try, Thaakir Abrahams

Conversion: Paddy Jackson