Western Province continued to lead the charge in the Absa Under-21 Provincial Championship this past weekend while the MTN Golden Lions leaped into second place on the log to boost their home semifinal hopes.
With only four rounds of matches remaining, Western Province, who have played one more match than the Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Sharks respectively, boast a 13 point lead on the log, which has kept them in pole position to finish the pool stages as the top team. But with only two points separating the second-placed Lions and fifth-placed Toyota Free State, a tense battle is expected to unfold for the three remaining semifinal spots.
In a weekend of away-wins, Western Province continued their fine form as they registered an invaluable 32-21 victory against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, while the MTN Golden Lions thumped the Toyota Free State 43-28 in Bloemfontein and the Leopards defeated Border 57-28 in East London.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 21 (14) DHL Western Province 32 (22)
In Pretoria three first-half tries by DHL Western Province to only two by the Vodacom Blue Bulls earned the Cape side a morale-boosting 22-14 half time lead at Loftus Versfeld. They built on this shortly after the break with right wing Patrick Howard crashing over for the bonus point try, while flyhalf Tim Swiel increased the score steadily with three penalties and two conversions. The Blue Bulls, meanwhile, earned three converted tries for their efforts.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 21 (14) – Tries: Dennis Visser, Irne Herbst, Tony Jantjies. Conversions: Kobus Marais, Tony Jantjies (2).
DHL Western Province 32 (22) – Tries: Devon Williams, Dillyn Leyds, Patrick Howard (2). Conversions: Tim Swiel (3). Penalties: Tim Swiel (2).
Toyota Free State 28 (14) MTN Golden Lions 43 (7)
The MTN Golden Lions staged a brave comeback from 14-7 down at half time against the Toyota Free State in Bloemfontein to secure their fifth victory of the season and hop into second place on the log. So convincing was their performance, they earned a total of six tries – five of which were scored in an impressive second half display – to outclass the hosts. The defeat forced the Bloemfontein side out of the top four on the standings, and with the three teams ahead of them on the log all boasting a game in hand, hard work remains for the side to secure a semifinal berth in a few weeks.
Toyota Free State 28 (14) – Tries: Noel Marx, Philip Botha, Sethu Tom. Conversions: Niel Marais (2). Penalties: Marais (3).
MTN Golden Lions 43 (7) – Tries: Albertus Smith, Harold Vorster, Jacques Nel, Marais Schmidt, Mark Pretorius, Peter-John Walters. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (2), Schmidt (3). Penalty: Schmidt.
Border 28 (14) Leopards 57 (28)
In East London a hat-trick of tries by Leopards left wing Adriaan Oosthuizen contributed heavily to their dominant performance against Border. The hosts struck first with Leroy Afrika crossing the tryline in the 4th minute in what proved to be a frantic start to the match, as each team crossed the tryline twice in the first 16 minutes. But the Leopards took control shortly after as they made the most of their try-scoring chances to increase their first-half tally to four. Two more tries shortly after the break and another two in the last 11 minutes, however, increased their total to eight and cancelled out Border’s four tries. The convincing victory for the Leopards marked their first 50-point score this season.
Border 28 (14) – Tries: Ernst Ladendorf, Leroy Afrika, Mario Noordman, Siphesihle Ngubane. Conversions: Shaun Nieuwenhuyzen (4).
Leopards 57 (28) – Tries: Adriaan Oosthuizen (3), Arno Ebersohn, Erno Nagy, Jaco Jordaan, Sarel Smith, Tiaan Loots. Conversions: Warren Gilbert (7). Penalty: Warren Gilbert.