The two sides from Gauteng won their matches in Llanelli and Cardiff, with the Vodacom Bulls moving to the top of the table in the process, while the Emirates Lions put three close defeats behind them with their first victory of the season.
However, the coastal sides struggled in Italy. The DHL Stormers went down to Benetton – the only unbeaten side left in the competition after four rounds of action – in Treviso, while the Hollywoodbets Sharks are still winless this season after they lost in Parma as Zebre recorded their first Vodacom URC win in 18 months.
All four games involving the South African teams were decided by margins of six points or fewer.
After four rounds, the Vodacom Bulls top the standings with 15 points (the same as Leinster and Glasgow Warriors), the DHL Stormers dropped to eighth on 11 points, the Emirates Lions moved up two spots to 12th with eight points, and the Hollywoodbets Sharks are still in last position with one point.
Composed Vodacom Bulls on top in Cardiff
The Vodacom Bulls started like a house on fire in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash against Cardiff in the Welsh capital, and were then made to work very hard defensively to ultimately record a deserved 18-12 victory on Friday.
The visitors from Pretoria scored two early tries – by Embrose Papier and Sebastian de Klerk – to take a 12-0 lead after 15 minutes, but the determination to grind out the win on the artificial turf in Cardiff would have made their supporters even happier.
There were times later on in the match where the Vodacom Bulls were on the backfoot, and while the hard-fought victory and four log points may still be very valuable as the season progresses, it would also have meant a lot for their self-belief and confidence as their early-season tour wraps up next weekend in Scotland.
Cardiff 12 (5) – Tries: Mason Grady, Ray Lee-Lo. Conversion: Tinus de Beer.
Vodacom Bulls 18 (12) – Tries: Embrose Papier, Sebastian de Klerk. Conversion: Chris Smith. Penalty goals: Smith (2).
Hollywoodbets Sharks stay winless after shock defeat in Parma
What was supposed to be the match that started their fightback after three defeats turned into a nightmare for the Hollywoodbets Sharks as they were beaten 12-10 by Zebre Parma in the fourth round of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship on Friday.
It was the Italians’ first win in 29 games dating back to April 2022, only a week after they took 50 points from the Vodacom Bulls.
The visitors from Durban not only lost the aerial battle, they also failed to capitalise on their opportunities and they let themselves down on a number of occasions with unforced errors.
However, their woeful discipline – the Hollywoodbets Sharks conceded 15 penalties to the four from the hosts – was the biggest issue. Zebre goaled four of their penalties while the KwaZulu-Natalians scored the only try of the match.
Zebre Parma 12 (6) – Penalty goals: Geronimo Prisciantelli (3), Jacopo Trulla.
Hollywoodbets Sharks 10 (10) – Try: Cameron Wright. Conversion: Boeta Chamberlain. Penalty goal: Chamberlain.
Emirates Lions break season duck in Llanelli
The Emirates Lions delivered a late blow to overhaul Scarlets on the scoreboard and record their first win of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship season when they won by 24-23 in Llanelli on Saturday.
The visitors – who scored three tries to two by the hosts – added 10 points in the last seven minutes courtesy of a penalty goal by Sanele Nohamba before he converted Henco van Wyk’s try with three minutes left on the clock.
No long before the Gautengers’ last charge, Scarlets increased their lead from 16-14 to nine points with their second try with 10 minutes left in the match, but the Emirates Lions knuckled down and did what was needed for their first win after three close defeats in the last month.
Scarlets 23 (10) – Tries: Tom Rogers, Ryan Elias. Conversions: Ioan Lloyd (2). Penalty goals: Lloyd (3).
Emirates Lions 24 (7) – Tries: Marius Louw, PJ Botha, Henco van Wyk. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (3). Penalty goal: Nohamba.
Benetton outlast DHL Stormers in Treviso
Italian side Benetton kept their unbeaten record at the start of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship season intact with a 20-17 victory over the DHL Stormers in Treviso on Saturday.
It was a very even contest in which the Capetonians’ discipline, game management and goal kicking could have been better. With scores tied at 10-10 at the end of the first half, a superb drop-goal from 50 metres out by Rhyno Smith gave the hosts a three-point lead at the break.
Six minutes into the second half, the DHL Stormers went ahead for the first time with a try by Courtnall Skosan, but they failed to keep the hosts out and a try by Alessandro Izekor with 25 minutes to go handed the lead back to Benetton, who hung on for the win.
Benetton 20 (13) – Tries: Marco Zanon, Alessandro Izekor. Conversions: Tomas Albornoz, Jacob Umaga. Penalty goal: Albornoz. Drop goal: Rhyno Smith.
DHL Stormers 17 (10) – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Scarra Ntubeni, Courtnall Skosan. Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Ulster 21 Munster 14
Ospreys 23 Glasgow Warriors 31
Edinburgh 25 Connacht 22
Dragons 10 Leinster 33