In the Heineken Challenge Cup, the Vodacom Bulls got off to a firing start against French club Lyon at Loftus Versfeld as they scored 28 points in the first half hour, but they had to withstand a strong fightback from the French side to ultimately record a rewarding 42-36 victory, while the Cell C Sharks showed real grit to defeat Harlequins – currently third on the Gallagher Premiership log – by 39-31 in Durban after losing front rankers Ox Nche (red card) and Bongi Mbonambi (yellow) in the final quarter.
The DHL Stormers were the only team to suffer a defeat in the competition as they let a 14-3 halftime lead slide against ASM Clermont Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, going down 24-14 in the end.
In the EPCR Challenge Cup, the Toyota Cheetahs made a welcome return to international rugby with a 21-16 victory against Section Paloise at Stade du Hameau in Pau on Saturday, while the Emirates Lions missed a crucial last-minute penalty forcing them to settle for a 31-31 draw against the Dragons in Johannesburg in a humdinger of a match.
Vodacom Bulls triumph in 11-try thriller against Lyon
The Vodacom Bulls demonstrated their attacking prowess as scrumhalf Bernard van der Linde scored a brace to add to tries by Sibongile Novuka and Stravino Jacobs (both wings), Nizaam Carr (flanker), and Chris Smit (replacement back), while flyhalf and captain Morne Steyn added six conversions.
Lyon battled back after going down by 28 points early on with former Vodacom Bulls loose forward Arno Botha - who crossed the chalk twice - Liam Coltman, Ethan Dumortier and Kyle Godwin notching the Top 14 team’s tries, while Leo Berdeu kicked 11 points. But ultimately the visitors failed to complete an improbable comeback on the Highveld.
Vodacom Bulls 42 (28) – Tries: Sibongile Novuka, Bernard van Der Linde (2), Nizaam Carr, Stravino Jacobs, Chris Smit. Conversions: Morne Steyn (6).
Lyon 36 (12) – Tries: Arno Botha (2), Liam Coltman, Ethan Dumortier, Kyle Godwin. Conversions: Leo Berdeu (4). Penalty goal: Berdeu.
Clermont recover to beat DHL Stormers
ASM Clermont Auvergne recovered from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Heineken Champions Cup debutants the DHL Stormers by 24-14 at Stade Marcel-Michelin in France on Saturday.
Alex Newsome and Alivereti Raka both crossed for second-half tries for the hosts, with 14 points from the boot of Jules Plisson helping the Top 14 side’s cause.
The DHL Stormers enjoyed a strong start and crossed through Springbok utility forward Deon Fourie but were ultimately overpowered after the break in what was a ferociously competitive and physical contest from the outset.
ASM Clermont-Auvergne 24 (3) – Tries: Alex Newsome, Alivereti Raka. Conversion: Jules Plisson. Penalty goals: Plisson (3). Drop-goal: Plisson.
DHL Stormers 14 (14) – Try: Deon Fourie. Penalty goals: Manie Libbok (2), Clayton Blommetjies.
Cell C harks win 10-try thriller against Harlequins
Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi notched up a brace for the Cell C Sharks in a five-try victory over English club Harlequins, winning their Heineken Champions Cup encounter by 39-31 in Durban on Saturday afternoon.
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Werner Kok (wing) and Boeta Chamberlain (fullback) also crossed the whitewash in a historic afternoon at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.
Harlequins played their part with Josh Bassett and Springbok centre André Esterhuizen dotting down twice each for the visitors in addition to a solo effort by Will Evans.
The English club took full advantage of a yellow card to Mbonambi and a red card to Bok prop Ox Nche to produce a tense finale. But just as Quins looked like they were going to complete an unlikely comeback, Chamberlain crossed for the hosts to end the tie in the final minute.
Cell C Sharks 39 (22) – Tries: Bongi Mbonambi, Makazole Mapimpi (2), Werner Kok, Boeta Chamberlain. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalty goals: Bosch (2).
Harlequins 31 (14) – Tries: Josh Bassett (2), Will Evans, Andre Esterhuizen (2). Conversions: Tommasso Allan (2), Will Edwards.
Toyota Cheetahs edge tight Challenge Cup debut in Pau
The Toyota Cheetahs showed composure and maturity under pressure to edge out Section Paloise 21-16 in their first ever EPCR Challenge Cup match at the Stade du Hameau in Pau on Saturday.
The match started slowly, with neither team really firing in attack, with Clément Mondinat kicking Pau into a lead in the first five minutes, before Ruan Pienaar responded with a penalty goal of his own.
Two further Mondinat kicks gave Pau a halftime lead but neither side will have been happy with their first-half displays. The second half was a completely different story, as Daniel Maartens went over for Toyota Cheetahs to give them a 10-9 lead.
The hosts fought back with intent, but the Toyota Cheetahs soldiered on to secure the victory.
Section Paloise 16 (9) – Try: Rémi Seneca. Conversion: Thibault Daubagna. Penalty goals: Clément Mondinat (3).
Toyota Cheetahs 21 (3) – Tries: Daniel Maartens, Oupa Mohoje. Conversion: Ruan Pienaar. Penalty goals: Pienaar (2), Siya Masuku.
Emirates Lions and Dragons play to entertaining draw
The Emirates Lions were held to a 31-31 draw with Dragons on their EPCR Challenge Cup debut on Saturday as both sides crossed for four tries in Johannesburg, with a long-range penalty attempt by Jordan Hendrikse sailing just wide after the buzzer had sounded.
The hosts' tries at Emirates Airline Park came from Edwill van der Merwe (2), Asenathi Ntlabakanye and Gianni Lombard, who also added a further seven points from the tee.
Jordan Williams, Rhodri Williams, Sam Davies and Jack Dixon went over for the Dragons, with Davies’ boot contributing an additional 11 points.
Both sides had chances to snatch victory late on, with Davies off-target with a drop-goal before Hendrikse came close with a penalty goal from halfway in the final act of the game. Both sides took three points from the contest thanks to bonus points for tries scored.
Emirates Lions 31 (17) – Tries: Edwill van der Merwe (2), Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Gianni Lombard. Conversions: Lombard (2), Jordan Hendrikse (2). Penalty goal: Lombard.
Dragons 31 (24) – Tries: Jordan Williams, Rhodri Williams, Sam Davies, Jack Dixon. Conversions: Davies (4). Penalty goal: Davies.