Wits scored a last-minute seven-point try to secure a 30-30 draw with Maties in Johannesburg, while there were wins for UCT, Pukke and UJ in the Varsity Cup. DYLAN JACK reports.
Maties led 27-14 with 10 minutes to go, but Wits got themselves back into the game when replacement utility back Taine Shabant charged down an attempted clearance and dotted down to reduce the deficit to six.
Maties flyhalf Chris Smith then knocked over a penalty, which meant Wits had to score a seven-point try (originating from their half) and kick the conversion to draw the game.
And they completed a miracle comeback when flyhalf Chris Humphries made a blistering break and offloaded to fullback Tyrone Green, who sidestepped the Maties fullback to score. Humphries added the extras.
The officials originally ruled that Green had only scored a five-point try, which would have meant a 30-28 win for Maties. However, upon review after the match, it was ruled that Wits had not lost possession since the kickoff, which is technically taken behind the halfway line.
This game was played at a frenetic pace, with both sides looking to spread the ball wide. Maties dominated much of the match through the power of their forward pack, while Wits scored tries at crucial times to keep themselves in touch with the league leaders.
Maties drew first blood, with wing Edwill van der Merwe crossing in the corner after a powerful scrum led to the ball being spread wide, and scrumhalf Remu Malan offloading brilliantly off the ground.
Wits suffered a further blow when wing Kwanele Ngema received a yellow card for a professional foul on his tryline. While Ngema was off, Maties added two further tries through centre Eldoe Schoeman and lock Johan Momsen.
With the score at 17-0, Wits needed a try, which is exactly what they got when Humphries made a blistering break and then offloaded to Green, who finished in the corner. However, replays showed that Green may have lost the ball forward with his extravagant dive, which was not picked up by the referee.
Wits scored another try minutes later when scrumhalf Ruan Cloete took a quick tap and passed to Ngema. He offloaded to centre Adriaan van Blerk, who scored a converted try to make it 17-14 at half-time.
Wits came out with renewed intensity after the break as they looked to run Maties off their feet. However, they made handling errors at crucial times, and could not find the same gaps that they had exploited at the end of the first half.
It was Maties who scored the first points of the second half when hooker Wilmar Arnoldi crossed in the corner from the back of a driving maul to make it 24-14 in the 60th minute.
Smith then knocked over a couple of penalties following Shabant’s try, before Green crossed to secure a dramatic draw.
In the late kickoff, UJ thrashed a young Shimlas side 49-12 in Bloemfontein despite being reduced to 14 men for much of the second half.
UJ scrumhalf Bradley Thain grabbed a brace of tries in a dominant performance.
UJ grabbed a 15-5 lead before losing centre Mayibongwe Maduna, on debut, to a red card late in the first half after he kicked a Shimlas player in the head while attempting to play a loose ball.
The Varsity Cup red card rule meant UJ could bring on a replacement after 20 minutes.
The Johannesburg-based side came out stronger in the second half, adding further tries from wing Odwa Nkunjana and fullback Ronald Brown.
Elsewhere, UCT produced a gutsy performance to beat Tuks 23-13 and keep the defending champions winless, while Pukke achieved a comfortable 37-5 win against NMU.
Varsity Cup Results (Round 5):
Wits (30) – Tries: Tyrone Green (2), AJ Van Blerk, Taine Chabant. Conversions: Chris Humphries (3)
Maties (30) – Tries: Edwill Van Der Merwe, Eldoe Schoeman, Johan Momsen. Conversions: Chris Smith. Penalties: Smith (2)
NMU (5) – Tries: Siphumelele Msutwana
Pukke (37) – Tries: Dean Gordon, Louis van der Westhuizen, Dean Stokes, Chriswill September, Tiaan Bezuidenhout. Conversions: DP de Lange (4).
UCT (23) – Tries: Josh Moon, Xaba Kuyenzeka, Liam Furnis (7-point). Conversions: Karl Martin (3)
Tuks (12) – Tries: Christo Hamman, Adrian Seerane. Penalty: Tinus de Beer
Shimlas (12) – Tries: Halom Athi, Francois Agenbag. Conversion: Nicolaas Naude. Penalty: Naude
UJ (49) – Tries: Bradley Thain (2), Odwa Nkunjana, Adriaan Bester, Ronald Brown. Conversions: Kobus Engelbrecht (4). Penalties: Kobus Engelbrecht (2).
Photo: Terence Vrugtman/Varsity Cup