The Cape derby between UCT and Maties ended in a thrilling 32-32 draw in the opening round of the Varsity Cup on Monday.
Ikeys played second-fiddle to Maties for the majority of the contest on the Green Mile, but the champions would stage another dramatic comeback, like they did against Pukke in last year's final, to deny their opponents.
The hosts were first on the board through a well-timed interception from Dylan Sage, with Warren Seals converting. Maties seemed to have hit back soon after, but Ernst Stapelberg was deemed to have knocked on.
The students from Stellenbosch were finally rewarded for their sustained pressure, when Jean Nel released JP Lewis for their first try. Stapelberg added the extras to square things up at the break. The first-half scoring pattern was replicated in the second as the arch-enemies exchanged tries once again, to tie the score at 16-16.
Maties pulled away with two further converted efforts from Lewis and Craig Barry and with eight minutes remaining, they were well on their way to a memorable victory. But Guy Alexander's try, converted by Seals, brought Ikeys back to within one score. Maties were then penalised for collapsing a maul on their own line and Ikeys got a penalty try that levelled things up at 32-32.
More drama would follow. Maties could have snatched victory with a penalty after the final hooter had sounded, but Brandon Thomson dragged his attempt inches wide of the right-hand upright.
Earlier in the day, 2014 runners-up Pukke recorded a 36-26 victory over the Madibaz in an ill-disciplined affair in Potchefstroom.
Pukke threatened NMMU's line in the opening stages, but failed to breach the defence until the 13th minute when fullback Rhyno Smith wriggled his way through for the first try. The hosts' advantage doubled when outside centre Rowayne Beukman beat four defenders to grab their second.
It only got worse for the Madibaz, with two yellow cards in the space of four minutes. Both captains, CJ Velleman for NMMU and Jeandre Rudolph for Pukke, then crossed before the interval as Pukke led 15-5 at the break.
The sides exchanged tries again before two stunning scores from Tythan Adams and Yamkela Ngam had the rejuvenated Madibaz in front at 26-23. But Skosana turned from hero to villain when he received a second yellow card for taking a player in the air and Pukke capitalised with Dean Stokes crashing over.
The outcome was put beyond doubt when Andiswa Ntsila was sent off for collapsing a maul that resulted in a penalty try for Pukke.
In Bloemfontein, Shimlas fought back from 29-13 down to draw 29-29 with visitors Tuks.
Both teams scored two first-half tries, but Tuks went into the break with a slender 16-13 lead, courtesy of an extra conversion.
They wrapped up the bonus point after the break with tries from Ryan Nell and Dan Kriel, but Shimlas responded with two converted tries either side of the second strategic break to draw level, setting up a tense final quarter, but neither side was able to break the deadlock.
In Monday's other Varsity Cup match, UJ thrashed newcomers CUT 46-10 in Bloemfontein. The visitors had secured their four-try bonus point before the halfway mark and didn't ease up on their opponents in the second stanza, running in four more tries.
The 2014 Varsity Shield champions did manage to unlock UJ's defence twice, but those tries were mere consolations.
In the Varsity Shield, Wits beat UFH 42-24 in Alice, and UKZN ran in 10 tries to smash TUT 68-5 in Pietermaritzburg.
UCT (32) – Tries: Dylan Sage, Mark Prior, Guy Alexander, Penalty try. Conversions: Warren Seals (4).
Maties (32) – Tries: JP Lewis (2), Kobus van Dyk, Craig Barry. Conversions: Ernst Stapelberg, Brandon Thomson (3).
Pukke (36) – Tries: Rhyno Smith, Rowayne Beukman, Jeandre Rudolph, Dalen Goliath, Dean Stokes, Penalty try. Conversions: Smith (2).
NMMU (26) – Tries: Cyril-John Velleman, Brian Skosana, Tythan Adams, Yamkela Ngam. Conversions: Ruan Allerston (2).
Shimlas (29) – Tries: Niell Jordaan, Gerhard Olivier, Maphutha Dolo, Conrad Van Vuuren. Conversions: Neil Marais (3).
Tuks (29) – Tries: Riaan Britz, Duncan Matthews, Ryan Nell, Dan Kriel. Conversions: Joshua Stander (3).
CUT (10) – Tries: Anrich Bitzi, Dean Kouprihanoff.
UJ (46) – Tries: Kobus Porter (2), Aphiwe Dyantyi, Siphatho Qinisile, Ettienne Oosthuizen (2), Jaco Fourie, Penalty try. Conversions: James Campbell (2).
UFH (24) – Tries: Sivakele Ulana, Lithabile Mgwadleke, Sibusiso Sityebi. Conversions: Ulana (3).
Wits (42) – Ish Nkolo (2), Constant Beckerling (2), Ruan van Rensburg, Tommy Darnba. Conversions: Brandan Hewitt (4).
UKZN (68) – TBC
TUT (5) – TBC
Photo: Varsity Cup