Just like England Test cricket captain Ben Stokes is reinventing the wheel in the format with his aggressive and innovative brand of leadership, so the two coaching protagonists who met at Scotstoun Stadium on Sunday, John Dobson of the DHL Stormers and Franco Smith of the Glasgow Warriors, are doing the same for their sport.
The upshot was a thrilling game that was decided off the last move, and if you look back at the long range tries that made up 75% of the four try haul that secured Glasgow their bonus point win, you could argue that the DHL Stormers were beaten by their own revolutionary brand of rugby.
The wheel might well have started turning for Glasgow when they were beaten by Dobson's men in Cape Town in April, and their coach at the time was so appreciative of the style embraced by his opponents.
Life is turning out to be good for the Warriors under their new coach. With six wins in a row, Glasgow now have impressive momentum under Smith, factoring in European Challenge Cup wins over Bath and Perpignan into his winning sequence. And Sunday’s five point haul has brought them into touching distance of the top four on the overall log, something that seemed unlikely a few weeks ago.
But this is how exciting the Vodacom URC season is turning out to be - while Glasgow are styling at the moment, they are still far from safe in their battle for supremacy in the Scotland/Italy Shield. That is because Benetton also now have that unmeasurable yet so critically important sporting ingredient on their side - momentum.
Benetton were involved in another thrilling game this weekend, winning off the last move of their game against Ulster in Treviso on Saturday afternoon. It was a result that leaves them just one point behind Glasgow in the Shield, with the bonus point that came with Sebastian Cancellieri’s winning try against the DHL Stormers being the difference between the two teams at present.
Benetton, the Rainbow Cup champions in 2021, should certainly be pleased with the way their season is turning out, and there are a few other teams that should feel the same, most notably the Welsh team, the Ospreys. They lost in Swansea to the tournament frontrunners, Leinster, but there was no denying their commitment and confidence as they took an early lead before eventually losing by just five points.
With Cardiff Rugby being upset at home in another exciting game by Scarlets, who many would agree were probably due for a good win as they have so often shown promise in defeat, the two Welsh frontrunners have dropped out of the top two. However, the results have kept the battle for Shield honours in the Principality interesting, as there are just five points separating leaders Cardiff from the Ospreys with a third of the league phase of the competition still to run.
Returning to the Scotland/Italy Shield, the Benetton game wasn’t the only one that was decided off the last move. Edinburgh kept the Shield a three way race by beating the competition’s bottom team, Zebre Parma, but they left it late, very late. They had to wait until the last move of the game to score the try that gave them a 24-17 win over the Italian side.
Indeed, it was a weekend filled with some irony in the two games played in Scotland, as both games ended with the same score - 24-17 - and both of them were also decided in favour of the home teams off the last move of the game when a draw looked likely. Those kind of wins always have the punters wanting to return, so they are good for the competition.
With the Vodacom Bulls getting full points against the Dragons while the DHL Stormers only managed a losing bonus point in Glasgow, the South African Shield has become tighter, but what the Scotstoun result, coupled with the one in Swansea, did do was widen the gap at the top between Leinster and the second-placed Stormers.
The Ospreys threw everything into the game so Leinster, in coming from behind to score their win in front of a partisan crowd and against strong opponents, underlined their championship qualities. They are now 11 points ahead at the top after being unbeaten after 12 games, and although the DHL Stormers have a game in hand, that’s a big gap as the Vodacom URC season takes a two week break for two rounds of Heineken Champions Cup fixtures.
When the competition returns there is a potentially thrilling face-off between the second and third placed teams, the DHL Stormers and Ulster, to look forward to in Belfast, with Ulster seemingly on the slide and in desperate need for good results in the Champions Cup to regain winning momentum.
Weekend Vodacom United Rugby Championship results
Munster 33 Emirates Lions 3
Dragons 14 Vodacom Bulls 29
Benetton 31 Ulster 29
Edinburgh 24 Zebre 17
Cardiff Rugby 22 Scarlets 28
Connacht 24 Cell C Sharks 12
Ospreys 19 Leinster 24
Glasgow Warriors 24 DHL Stormers 17