The weekend started with the DHL Stormers playing to a gripping 22-22 draw against Leinster in Dublin, ending a 15-match winning streak by the log-leading Irish giants, and on Saturday afternoon the Emirates Lions toppled Benetton 32-28 in Treviso. Unfortunately, the Cell C Sharks lost 32-20 against the Scarlets in Llanelli, while the Vodacom Bulls went down fighting by 32-23 against Ulster in Belfast.
These results ensured that the DHL Stormers remained in second place on the log behind Leinster to give them a real chance of a home semi-final should they progress to the top four, while the Emirates Lions’ bonus-point win kept their playoff hopes alive.
The defeats for the sixth-placed Vodacom Bulls and seventh-placed Cell C Sharks, meanwhile, mean they will be under immense pressure to win their last two remining pool matches to secure their playoff spots, especially with Connacht and Cardiff (trailing by two points) and Benetton (by three points) chasing hard.
All four South African teams will return home for their final two rounds, with Leinster, Munster, Benetton and Zebre Parma heading to the Republic as the league stage heads to an exciting climax.
After 80 minutes of going hammer and tongs in horrendous conditions in Dublin, there was nothing to separate the two top teams in the Vodacom URC as Leinster and the DHL Stormers played to a 22-22 draw (halftime 17-5) at the RDS Arena on Friday evening.
The defending champions from Cape Town – who halted a 15-match winning streak for Leinster – raced to a 17-0 lead after a bit more of half an hour of action, but the hosts came back strongly in the second half, and they could have won the game had their goal kicking been better.
Leinster had a final opportunity to seal the game, but Harry Byrne hit the upright with an attempted penalty goal in the 77th minute.
Leinster 22 (5) – Tries: Michael Milne, Scott Penny, Rob Russell, Max Deegan. Conversion: Harry Byrne.
DHL Stormers 22 (17) – Tries: Manie Libbok, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Clayton Blommetjies. Conversions: Libbok (2). Penalty goal: Libbok.
The Emirates Lions kept their Vodacom URC playoff hopes alive with a memorable 32-28 victory against Benetton in their round 16 clash at Stadio Monigo in Treviso on Saturday afternoon.
It was a game of two halves as Benetton stamped their authority in the first half before being outplayed by a hungry Emirates Lions outfit in the second half.
The South Africans scored three tries in quick succession – two of them by Emmanuel Tshituka – and limited the visitors to one to snatch an important victory.
Benetton 28 (21) – Tries: Joaquin Riera, Marcus Watson, Siua Maile, Henry Time-Stowers. Conversions: Jacob Umaga (4).
Emirates Lions 32 (10) – Tries: Quan Horn, Emmanuel Tshituka (2), Rabz Maxwane. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (3). Penalty goals: Nohamba (2).
Scarlets flyhalf Sam Costelow kicked 22 points as the Welsh club beat the Cell C Sharks by 32-20 (half-time 13-7) in a Vodacom URC clash in Llanelli on Saturday evening.
The teams scored two tries apiece in difficult conditions and while the visitors had their opportunities, they failed to capitalise on a number of occasions.
The Cell C Sharks will rue the fact that too many errors ended up costing them momentum, as they had the upper hand in terms of territory and possession, but they allowed Costelow too many opportunities to line up penalties at goal, which the Welsh flyhalf gladly turned into points.
Scarlets 32 (13) – Tries: Steff Evans (2). Conversions: Sam Costelow (2). Penalty goals: Costelow (6).
Cell C Sharks 20 (7) – Tries: Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalty goals: Bosch (2).
The Vodacom Bulls went down fighting against Ulster in their Vodacom URC clash at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Saturday, going down 32-23 in a gripping round 16 fixture.
The first half was a ding-dong battle as both sides threw everything at one another, but the Vodacom Bulls had the edge on the scoreboard with a handy 20-12 lead at the break as both teams scored two tries apiece.
A thrilling second half ensued as the teams threw everything at one another resulting in a gripping end to the clash, with Ulster hooker Tom Steward earning his hat-trick, while they limited the South Africans to a penalty goal for their efforts as two Vodacom Bulls players were sent to the sin bin.
Ulster 32 (12) – Tries: Rob Baloucoune, Tom Steward (3). Conversions: Nathan Doak (3). Penalty goals: Doak, John Cooney.
Vodacom Bulls 23 (20) – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Zak Burger. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (3).