The Warriors were far more impressive against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld than they had been against the Stormers a week earlier, and they fought all the way to the end in search of a losing bonus. Yet despite that rousing ending, the bigger picture showed a second half in which they were steadily worn down by the home side after going in at the break just seven points behind, with a final score of 29-17 in favour of the hosts.
The Bulls, in the eighth and last play-off place in the URC before kick-off, rose to second thanks to picking up a try bonus in this first match of the weekend. They knew they would slip down a rung or three once other teams played, but even so they are well and truly in contention for a top-four finish and the home quarter-final that goes with it.
By contrast, the Warriors will fall to eighth today if Edinburgh pick up so much as a point against Ulster. They will then be looking anxiously over their shoulders at the Scarlets, whose own hopes of a play-off are by no means over.
Danny Wilson’s side got off to an excellent start in Pretoria, being awarded a penalty try after the home side collapsed a maul just short of their own goal line. Bulls No 8 Elrigh Louw was yellow-carded for the team offence, but the South Africans fought back well while a man down and levelled when scrum-half Zak Burger dotted down close to the posts to leave Morne Steyn an easy conversion.
Duncan Weir nudged Glasgow back in front with a penalty midway through the half, but a second Steyn penalty then brought the Bulls level at 10-10. When the veteran stand-off sliced another, easier chance wide just before the break, that looked like being that for the first half.
But then in time added on, Zander Fagerson was yellow-carded for committing one too many offences, and the Bulls immediately made their advantage count. A penalty was sent to touch, the forwards carried close to the line, and winger Madosh Tambwe finished off on the right, with Steyn again converting.
Despite being handicapped by injuries to key ball-winners Rory Darge and Tom Gordon, the Warriors defended well for almost the entire third quarter, but then lost two tries in quick succession. Lock Walt Steenkamp got the first, bursting through after a short pass from Burger. Then substitute Cyle Brink finished off after heavy pressure from the pack to claim the bonus point.
Steyn converted the first, his replacement Chris Smith hit the post from the second, but it was immaterial. Glasgow had expended so much energy staying in the contest that it seemed clear there was no way they would be able to find the three full scores needed to regain the lead.
They did get one back five minutes from time when Ollie Smith sliced through on the first phase following a lineout, and Ross Thompson’s conversion left them five points short of a losing bonus. They thought they had got the try they needed when Smith finished off, but a forward pass in the build-up from Sione Tuipulotu meant the score was chalked off.