Exeter Chiefs handed the Vodacom Bulls their first defeat of the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup campaign, outmuscling the Pretoria outfit at the Sandy Park Stadium. Captain and English player, Luke Cowan-Dickie led from the front, scoring a hattrick of tries as his team outscored the herd by six tries to two in Exeter.
The Vodacom Bulls opened their bank account with a brilliant team try that saw Stravino Jacobs break the defensive line of the Chiefs, finding a narrow gap to blitz for the line. Morne Steyn slotted the conversion and the visiting Pretoria herd were beaming with confidence.
Despite their consistent attack at their hosts, the Vodacom Bulls could not find a second try inside the first half, narrowly missing out on certain chances whilst also being denied a try adjudged by the referee.
Exeter Chiefs were very effective with their maul and they employed it well - to their advantage - as they went over the line four times and slotted in two penalties during the course of the first stanza.
Going into the break, the hosts led from the front with a 25-point cushion, thanks to their four tries to one of the Vodacom Bulls, leaving the scores at 32-7.
Once the two teams returned for the second bite of the cherry, it was the hosts that started off where they left off, dotting down their fifth inside the opening four minutes of their return.
Needing to respond and find a way back onto the points system, the Vodacom Bulls slowed down the game, building forward momentum and in the 53rd minute, the Pretoria outfit were rewarded. From a lineout, captain Steyn delicately chipped the ball over the Chiefs’ defensive line and Chris Barend Smit was on standby to receive the ball (after some fortuitous bounce) to finish the move over the line for their second of the afternoon in Exeter. Steyn converted the try to take his side to 14 points.
The Chiefs quickly responded in kind, going over for their sixth try - a minute later - to stretch their lead to 30 points with 35 minutes to play. The remainder of the game was scrappy as neither sides could put on the finishing touches to their moves but it was the visitors who looked the more threatening to score, even though in the end; neither side would go on to score.
The Vodacom Bulls had a better run in the second half, restricting Exeter Chiefs to just two tries versus their one. In the end, the English Premiership outfit recorded a bonus point 44-14 victory.
VODACOM BULLS SCORERS
Tries: Stravino Jacobs x1, Chris Barend Smit x1
Conversions: Morne Steyn x2
VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV:
- Dylan Smith, 2. Bismarck Du Plessis, 3. Jacques van Rooyen, 4. Reinhardt Ludwig, 5. Janko Swanepoel, 6. Nizaam Carr, 7. Muller Uys, 8. Wj Steenkamp, 9. Bernard van der Linde, 10. Morne Steyn (c), 11. Stravino Jacobs, 12. Chris Barend Smit, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sibongile Novuka, 15. Wandisile Simelane
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD:
- Lizo Gqoboka, 17. Joe van Zyl, 18. Sebastian Lombard, 19. Cameron Hanekom, 20. Phumzile Maqondwana, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Carlton Bannies, 23. Juan Mostert