The Vodacom Bulls streaked to an early lead against Saracens and then held on to launch their 2023-24 Champions Cup campaign with a win in Pretoria on Saturday.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen kicked 12 points as the Bulls made a fast start in a 27-16 win at Loftus Versfeld. The Bulls scored three tries and had a further three called back.
The reigning Premiership champions, Saracens conceded two yellow cards and a red but somehow rallied in the second half to deny the Bulls a four-try bonus-point victory and came within one late try of leaving Pretoria with a losing bonus point.
The Bulls coasted to a 20-6 lead at half time as Goosen kicked 10 points to go with tries from centre David Kriel and lock Janko Swanepoel.
The first of Saracens’ yellows was to fullback Alex Goode for taking out winger Kurt-Lee Arendse, before lock Maro Itoje was sent to the bin for impeding scrumhalf Embrose Papier.
Grab your popcorn this match is already looking TASTY 🍿@BlueBullsRugby get the first score 🔥
— Investec Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 9, 2023
Winger Canan Moodie scored the Bulls’ third try as Goosen slotted the extras in the second half, but that proved to be the hosts’ last scoring act as Saracens denied them access to the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes.
Saracens’ discipline let them down again shortly after Moodie’s try as No 8 Billy Vunipola was shown red for a dangerous cleanout on his opposite number, Cameron Hanekom.
It was all Saracens in the last 20, pulling back two tries courtesy of centre Elliot Daly and replacement lock Theo McFarland, while the Bulls played the final nine minutes without Swanepoel who received a yellow for a lineout transgression.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images