Free State scored six tries in downing the Golden Lions 41-28 at the Northern Unions Day in Nelspruit on Saturday, while the Sharks beat the Blue Bulls. THEO GARRUN reports.
It looks like this might be the year that Free State make the impact at the U18 Craven Week that has been eluding them for the past few years.
They were up against a game Lions side who matched them score-for-score until the last few minutes when the Bloemfonteiners scored twice to draw clear.
It was 15-14 to Free State at half-time, with two tries each, and it was set up for a mighty second-half contest.
Free State drew first blood when tighthead prop Herman Agenbag ran 25m to score, followed six minutes later by a try from flanker Nhlanhla Senoamadi. That put Free State 29-14 up and it looked like they were going to run away with it.
The Lions kept going, though, and they got the next two scores – converted tries by hooker Karel Zowitsky and wing Henco van Wyk – which closed the gap to a single point.
The Free State backs were able to break tackles quite easily in the latter stages, and they exploited the space out wide to get those two late tries, via Richard Kriel and Dippies Dippenaar.
The Glenwood-laden Sharks team went into their game against the Blue Bulls as firm favourites, and they duly won 25-17, but they never had it all their way and the Bulls produced some good rugby and scored two tries to the Sharks’ three.
The KwaZulu-Natal side has been disrupted by injury – SA Schools scrumhalf Jaden Hendricks is out for the rest of the season – and they had to shuffle their backline, which meant they battled to find their rhythm.
Their forwards were outstanding, though, particularly on the drive and in the rolling mauls. They supplied plenty of quality possession and should get the credit for the victory.
The sides scored one try apiece in the first half and Dylan Pretorius slotted two penalties for the Sharks, putting them 13-7 up at the break.
The Sharks pack began to dominate in the second half and they got tries through Rynhardt Jonker and Nkondlo Simelene to go 25-10 ahead, before a late try by Ruben van der Linde brought the Bulls back into the game.
The Sharks survived a nervy last few minutes to hold out for the win and will go into the Craven Week, in a fortnight’s time, full of confidence.
Free State (41) – Tries: Ian Small-Smith, Wycliff Vlitoor, Herman Agenberg, Nhlanhla Senoamadi, Richard Kriel, Dippies Dippenaar. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (4). Penalty: Du Plessis.
Golden Lions 28 – Tries: Ruben Westraad, Lindo Ncusane, Karel Zowitski, Henco van Wyk. Conversions: Declan Raubenheimer (4).
Sharks (25) – Tries: Pierre le Roux, Rynhardt Jonker, Nkondlo Simelane. Conversions: Dylan Pretorius (2). Penalties: Pretorius (2).
Blue Bulls (17) – Tries: Christian Kamffer, Bernard van der Linde. Conversions: Regardt Roets, Van der Linde. Penalty: Roets.
Free State U16 27 Golden Lions U16 26
Valke 48 Griquas 47
Sharks 25 Blue Bulls 17
Free State 41 Golden Lions 28
Pumas 13 Limpopo Blue Bulls 8
Photo: Theo Garrun