Good Fortune guides Valke to glory

Flyhalf Keagan Fortune scored 25 points as the Valke beat the SWD Eagles to clinch the inaugural Mzanzi Challenge title their first trophy since 2006  on Saturday.

The men from Gauteng won 55-38, after leading 31-14 at half time, with 12 tries scored in a superb final in Kempton Park.

The Valke, whose last senior men’s title was when they won the Vodacom Cup 17 years ago, and SWD Eagles advanced to the knockout rounds after finishing first and second in the league standings, and winning their respective semi-finals by convincing margins.

The tone for a fast-paced fixture at the Barnard Stadium was set after Valke centre Musa Tshabalala crossed the whitewash after just nine seconds.

As the half progressed, the Valke started to pull away. Scrumhalf Luciano Elias rounded off a brilliant passage of interplay between forwards and backs, while wing Valentino Wellman used his power and footwork to add a third try for the hosts before the break.

Fortune controlled proceedings, and slotted six of his seven attempts at goal in the first half.

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Replacement lock Mihali Stamper made an immediate impact when he took a short pass, broke the line, and raced 30-plus metres to score the Valke’s fourth try, before prop Thabo Ntunja thundered over the tryline in the 52nd minute.

The Valke kept on coming, though, and wing Easton Arendse’s try in the 65th minute brought up the hosts’ half-century of points.

The Eagles conceded their second card of the match in the 72nd minute. Replacement flanker Sesona Macala was shown a red after a particularly reckless tackle attempt, leaving his side to complete the final with 14 men.

Fortune stepped up to slot the penalty his 10th successful kick at goal from 12 attempts. The Eagles scored in injury time, but it wasn’t enough as the East Randers started celebrating their first silverware in a few years.

The Valke will travel to Wellington next week to tackle the Boland Kavailiers in the Currie Cup First Division final.

Valke – Tries: Musa Tshabalala, Luciano Elias, Valentino Wellman, Mihlali Stamper, Thabo Ntunja, Easton Arendse. Conversions: Keagan Fortune (5). Penalty goals: Fortune (5).
SWD Eagles – Tries: Rosco Syster (2), Stephan Leonard (2), Janneman Stander, Mpho Ntsane. Conversions: Marlo Weich (3), Syster.

Photo: SA Rugby website

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