Eastern Province defeated the Vodacom Blue Bulls 25-23 in the U19 provincial final at Ellis Park on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
EP came into the decider as the form team in the competition, having won 12 of their 13 games, with their only loss coming against the Bulls during the league phase.
Having trailed at the break, the Bulls fought back in the second stanza, but flyhalf Tinus de Beer missed a crucial penalty in the 68th minute, which allowed EP to hold on for victory.
A converted try by captain and inside centre Jeremy Ward put EP 7-0 up in the eighth minute, after they had succeeded in depriving the Bulls of territory and possession during the early stages.
Flyhalves Michael Brink and Tinus de Beer then exchanged penalties as EP headed into the sheds 13-6 in front.
The Bulls made a better start to the second half, scoring two quick tries to take an unexpected seven-point lead. Having failed to bring their backline into the game in the first half, the boys from Pretoria started to use the width of the field more to get the backs into the action.
First loosehead prop Gavin van den Berg pounced on a charged-down kick inside EP's 22 to score an opportunistic try, which De Beer converted to draw level. Then from a rolling maul, JT Jackson went on a surging run before offloading to De Beer who dived over for a self-converted effort which saw the Bulls take the lead for the first time.
Poor support play by the Bulls’ forwards gifted EP a turnover inside their own half and spotting acres of space down the blindside, flanker SF Nieuwoudt raced clear. He lacked pace to go all the way, but the ball was recycled quickly and Ward crashed over for his second. Brink’s successful locked the scores at 20-20, before De Beer nailed a further penalty to put the Bulls ahead again.
With the clock winding down, EP worked their way close to the tryline, sent the ball from side to side to create an overlap, which wing Mabhutana Peter exploited for the winning try.
Brink missed the conversion to make it a four-point game, which would have forced the Bulls to look for a try to win the match, but when they were handed a penalty, De Beer skewed his attempt from right in front, which proved costly.
Eastern Province U19 – Tries: Jeremy Ward (2), Mabhutana Peter. Conversions: Michael Brink (2). Penalties: Brink (2).
Blue Bulls U19 – Try: Gavin van den Berg, Tinus de Beer. Conversions: De Beer (2). Penalties: De Beer (3).
Eastern Province U19 – 15 Keanu Vers, 14 Mabhutana Peter,13 Yamkela Nyalambisa, 12 Jeremy Ward (captain), 11 Athi Mayinje, 10 Michael Brink, 9 James Hall, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Hayden Tharratt, 6 SF Nieuwoudt, 5 Lusanda Badiyana, 4 Robert Lyons, 3 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 2 Thango Balekile, 1 Greg Jackson.
Subs: 16 Masikane Mazwi, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Matthew Howes, 19 Wihan Coetzer, 20 Xholisa Matshoba, 21 Sibusiso Ngcokovane, 22 Garrick Mattheus, 23 Dominik Uytenbogaardt.
Blues Bulls U19 – 15 Kurt Webster, 14 Coneree Poole, 13 JT Jackson, 12 Franco Naude, 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Tinus de Beer (c), 9 Stephan Enslin, 8 Denzel Hill, 7 JD Fourie, 6 Arnold Gerber, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Sam Mitchell, 3 Jaco Holtzhausen, 2 Alandre van Rooyen, 1 Gavin van den Berg.
Subs: 16 Junqgo Hennings, 17 Madot Mabokela, 18 Rohan Goosen, 19 Hendre Stassen, 20 Luigy van Jaarsveld, 21 Dale Hendricks, 22 Ruan de Beer, 23 Tshepiso Mahasha.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images