The Xerox Lions lowered the flags of the Vodacom Blue Bulls (26-17) and the Cell C Sharks outplayed DHL Western Province (45-24) in the third round of the SA Rugby U21 Provincial Championship at Emirates Airline Park on Monday, with both wins crucial for teams hoping to reach the final.
The home side, boosted by two tries in the opening 10 minutes, held on to hand the Vodacom Blue Bulls their first defeat of the competition, while the Cell C Sharks managed their first win and kept the Cape side winless and at the bottom of the log halfway through the competition.
The Xerox Lions have now moved into the second place on the log standings, but have a bye in round four, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls, despite their defeat, still stays top, courtesy of two strong wins in their first two matches.
The latest standings after three rounds of action is here.
• The next two matches are on Sunday, when DHL Western Province will be looking for their first win when they take on Toyota Free State (who had a bye today) in the early match at 10h30. The Vodacom Blue Bulls will meet the Cell C Sharks at 13h45 in the second match of round four.
Below are match report summaries of today’s matches.
Cell C Sharks strike early to beat DHL Western Province
The Cell C Sharks delivered a strong first half performance to dominate DHL Western Province for a morale-boosting 45-24 victory in their SA Rugby U21 Championship clash at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Monday.
The KwaZulu-Natalians held out in the second stanza as the Cape side fought back bravely, which allowed them to secure their first win of the tournament.
The Durbanites’ industrious backline sealed the deal early on, scoring three tries in the first quarter to get daylight between themselves and DHL WP, who have now suffered consecutive defeats.
It took only 15 minutes of play for the Cell C Sharks to build up an encouraging 21-0 lead, which paved the way for them to run away with the match.
The compulsory water break after 20 minutes came just in time for the shell-shocked DHL WP, as it allowed them regroup and sharpen up their focus.
They delivered a much better display as the half progressed, but the real damage had already been inflicted and they were forced to play catch-up rugby for the remainder of the match.
DHL WP flyhalf Ruan Mostert had an early penalty goal attempt for his team, but pulled it wide, before the Cell C Sharks scored three sublime tries.
Thaakir Abrahams (fullback) scored from wide out after a great attack by his teammates from inside their own half.
Paul Roux (wing) ran strongly and Abrahams took the final pass to score, while Boeta Chamberlain (flyhalf) slotted over the conversion from the touch line.
Cell C Sharks outside centre Donald Falconer was next on the score sheet barely a minute later after Chamberlain found Caleb Dingaan with a cross-kick, with the winger passing to Celimpilo Gumede (flanker) on his inside before Falconer received the try-scoring pass.
Chamberlain kicked the conversion and he had another successful attempt at the goal posts when Le Roux Malan (centre) burst through strongly.
Chamberlain missed a long-range penalty goal attempt after the water break and it was no surprise when DHL WP scored their first try on the 30-minute mark. Captain and flank Marcel Theunissen barged over after his team attacked relentlessly. Mostert converted, but that score was cancelled out again just before the half-time hooter.
The commanding Cell C Sharks pack drove strongly from a lineout and captain and Fez Mbatha (hooker) touched down, with the successful conversion handing them a 28-7 lead, which left the Cape outfit with a big mountain to climb.
The second half saw the Sharks on the front foot again thanks to a long-range effort from Chamberlain which extended their lead to 31-7.
DHL WP were shocked into action and a strong lineout drive saw Dian Bleuler (prop) crashing over near the corner flag.
Roux then lost the ball over the line thanks to a try-saving tackle by Andre-Hugo Venter (replacement hooker), but the Cell C Sharks were rampant, with Abrahams scoring his second try after a powerful scrum.
Evan Roos (No 8), who was hugely imposing in the clash, picked up at the base of the scrum and broke the advantage line, before soft hands found the fullback in space and he dropped over the line, with Chamberlain kicking another pearler from wide out.
Venter then turned from try-saver to try scorer as Province attacked from all corners. The Cell C Sharks were found napping after a penalty and Venter could burst through following a quick tap.
The Cape side continued their comeback effort with a try by Simon Taylor (replacement flank), who charged over after a good lineout drive, but with only five minutes left, it was too little too late.
The Cell C Sharks’ dominance and win were amplified by Roos, who scored off the back of another powerful scrum to round off a strong personal and team performance.
Cell C Sharks 45 (28) – Tries: Thaakir Abrahams (2), Donald Falconer, Le Roux Malan, Fez Mbatha, Evan Roos. Conversions: Boeta Chamberlain (5), Rynhardt Jonker. Penalty goal: Chamberlain.
DHL Western Province 24 (7) – Tries: Marcel Theunissen, Dian Bleuler, Andre-Hugo Venter, Jarred Taylor. Conversions: Ruan Mostert, Kade Wolhuter.
Xerox Lions outlast northern neighbours in U21 nail-biter
It was a massive Monday afternoon slog between the two top teams in the SA Rugby Under-21 Championship, but in the end the Xerox Lions outlasted the defending champions, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, to remain in contention for the final with a 26-17 victory at Emirates Airline Park.
The two packs of forwards had a proper go at each other, but in the end the Xerox Lions probably had the upper hand upfront, played their territory better and used their opportunities, while the Vodacom Blue Bulls made too many mistakes, were ill-disciplined and seemed lethargic at stages.
The visitors from north of the Jukskei river scored three tries to two, but it was the boot of Luke Rossouw that proved the difference, with the Xerox Lions inside centre kicking four second half penalty goals and two conversions for a personal haul of 16 points.
The Xerox Lions started this match against their Gauteng neighbours like a house on fire, realising that a win will keep alive their hopes of reaching the final.
And the Xerox Lions’ tighthead prop, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, was the man who hurt the men in blue with two tries in the opening 10 minutes.
The former Junior Springbok prop’s first try was an opportunistic piece of play from an over-thrown lineout, and a few minutes later he barged over under the uprights after a good build-up by the Xerox Lions.
It was just the start the Xerox Lions had wanted, as they took a 14-0 lead after just nine minutes.
Try as they might, the Vodacom Blue Bulls struggled to get going with stern Xerox Lions defence and unforced errors keeping the men from Pretoria scoreless for most of the first half.
In fact, they seemed to get frustrated as the Xerox Lions fluffed a number of promising attacks, with some negative play creeping into the hosts’ defensive play.
After 30 minutes, the referee, Divan Uys, sent the Xerox Lions’ Shaun Baxter (fullback) to the bin for repeated infringements and the Vodacom Blue Bulls used this numeric advantage to work Stravino Jacobs (wing) over in the left corner, with Qamani Kota (replacement fullback) putting in a superb run in the build-up to the try.
This try saw the teams go into the break with the hosts leading by 14-5, but the Vodacom Blue Bulls were getting into their stride as they were looking to secure a place in the final as they have a bye in the last round.
But the Xerox Lions had other ideas, with Rossouw adding the first two of his four penalty goals early in the second stanza to stretch his team’s lead to 20-5.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls came back strong though and closed the gap to just three points with two converted tries in four minutes.
First Jay Cee Nel crashed over from a good period of sustained attack after a lineout on the home team’s 5m-line, and then David Coetzer scored from a turnover deep in the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ own half when the Xerox Lions lost the ball just outside the Pretorians’ 22, and they quickly counter-attacked to send the flyhalf over under the sticks.
But with mistakes creeping back into the men in blue’s game, Rossouw stepped up to the plate and added another penalty goal just before the second water-break to give his team some breathing space on the score board.
Despite getting their hands on the ball quite often, the Vodacom Blue Bulls still lost possession with silly mistakes, and with less than five minutes remaining, Rossouw added three more points, all but securing victory for the Xerox Lions.
Xerox Lions 26 (14) – Tries: Asenathi Ntlabakanye (2). Conversions: Luke Rossouw (2). Penalty goals: Rossouw (4).
Vodacom Blue Bulls 17 (5) – Tries: Stravino Jacobs, Jay Cee Nel, David Coetzer. Conversion: Qamani Kota.