Free State produced a strong second-half performance to beat the Blue Bulls 38-21 at the U18 Craven Week in Paarl on Tuesday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Much of the credit has to go to the Bulls forwards, who did a good job of disrupting the Free State backline, with flank Johandre Buitendag, in particular, proving a nuisance at the breakdown.
Despite creating many scoring opportunities, Free State were let down by poor handling errors at crucial times in the match.
In a scrappy encounter, the boys from Pretoria raced to a 10-point lead in the opening five minutes.
However, a powerhouse performance from Free State fullback Richard Kriel, who was named Hero of the Day for his exploits, helped his team stay in the game with tries either side of half-time.
The Bulls took a handy 15-7 lead into the break thanks to tries from scrumhalf Bernard van der Linde, who sniped over the line, and centre Diego Appollis, who finished off a break from flyhalf Regardt Roets.
Minutes into the second half, Kriel got his team back into the contest when he scored his second try, chipping the ball ahead twice before regathering and going over the line.
Roets then slotted his second penalty before centre Wyclef Vlitoor showed a good eye to burst through a gap and dot down to bring his side within a point of the Bulls.
Roets kicked another penalty, but Free State took the lead for the first time when wing Lehlohonolo Litabe finished off an attacking move started by a break from Kriel.
Captain WJ Steenkamp then went over from close range, before prop Jan-Hendrik Wessels sprinted through to well and truly put his side in control of the game.
The Bulls threatened with a late assault on the Free State line, but were held out and eventually turned over.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Bernard van der Linde, Diego Appollis. Conversion: Regardt Roets. Penalties: Roets (3).
Free State – Tries: Richard Kriel (2), Wyclef Vlitoor, Lehlohonolo Litabe, WJ Steenkamp, Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (4).
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images