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The Bulls held their nerve in a gripping encounter against Leinster in a nail-biting United Rugby Championship (URC) semi-final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday to book their second final berth in three years in the northern hemisphere showpiece against Glasgow Warriors in Pretoria next weekend.

The defending champions and log-leaders Munster’s 17-10 defeat to the Warriors in the second semi-final at Thomond Park later in the evening handed the Pretoria side a first ever URC final at home.

Bulls to host the final at Loftus Versfeld

The Bulls fought tooth and nail against Leinster, with three tries to two by the Pretoria outfit – two of which were scored by Sergeal Petersen – and overcame a first-half yellow card to snatch the victory.

Glasgow’s two tries to one by Munster saw them knock the Irishmen out of the competition and deny them a home final after finishing the pool stages as the top ranked team.

The grand final will play out at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, 22 June at 18:00.

The Bulls showed true grit and an immense fighting spirit to hold out Leinster in a humdinger of a United Rugby Championship semi-final at their fortress Loftus Versfeld to book a valuable spot in the grand final next week. 

It was a battle of inches as both teams threw everything at one another on attack and defence, but the Bulls’ three tries to two by Leinster saw them take the honours for a rewarding victory.

The win for the Bulls was a sweet reward for the team after dropping out in the quarter-final stages last season, and they will enter the final as motivated as ever after suffering a heart-breaking 18-13 defeat against the Stormers in the 2021/2022 grand final in Cape Town.

The first half in the country’s capital was tense with both teams scoring a try a piece, but a penalty goal by the Bulls’ Johan Goosen on the stroke of halftime saw them hold a narrow three-point lead at the break.

Both teams created try-scoring chances in the opening 10 minutes, which they failed to convert into points, while Leinster’s Ross Byrne also pushed a penalty goal attempt wide 10 minutes later.

Deliberate knock-down

The hosts came close to breaking through the defence in the 18th minute as Devon Williams cruised through in the corner after some good passing out wide with a clear tryline in front of him, but the try was denied after an infringement leading up to the touchdown.

The Bulls were dealt a big blow soon after as Petersen received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-down, reducing them to 14 men.

Leinster capitalised on the extra man almost immediately as they found space out wide to score compliments of James Lowe and the successful conversion pushed them 7-0 up.

Their lead, however, was short-lived as the hosts pounced back with a try by Johan Goosen, who spotted a gap in the defence to dart through, and he levelled the scores as he landed the conversion.

Goosen added to this magic by kicking a valuable three-pointer on the stroke of half-time to nudge them into a 10-7 lead going into the break.

The Bulls wasted no time increasing their lead in the second half with Petersen dotting down the ball two minutes after play resumed for an encouraging 17-7 lead, and unfortunately for the home side they were held out by the strong defence close to the tryline shortly after, which would have extended their lead.

Leinster hit back hard with their second try by Caelan Doris from a strong forward drive minutes after an earlier try attempt, and they added a penalty goal minutes later to level the scores once again with 21 minutes left to play.

The Pretoria side, however, showed their fighting spirit as the match progressed with Goosen kicking his second penalty goal, and this was followed by another by Leinster, before Petersen wrapped up his brace after gathering a great chip kick to dart over the chalk with 13 minutes left on the clock.

The Bulls had an opportunity to extend their lead with a minute left to play, but Goosen’s attempt at goal went wide, and they kept on fighting until the final whistle to snatch the 25-20 victory, which saw them claim a spot in the top two.

SCORERS

Bulls

Tries: Johan Goosen, Sergeal Petersen (2)

Conversions: Goosen (2)

Penalties: Goosen (2)

Leinster

Tries: James Lowe, Caelin Doris

Conversions: Ross Byrne (2)

Penalties: Byrne (2)