The NWU Eagles held on to claim a 35-32 victory in their postponed match over CUT on Tuesday and secure their place in the Varsity Cup semi-finals.
The result means that NWU have climbed above CUT into fourth place on the Varsity Cup table, ending the small Free State-based university’s dreams of making it into their very first playoff.
The Eagles now have a semi-final meeting with top-of-the-table UCT, while second-placed Maties faced third-placed UP-Tuks in the first semi-final.
The Ixias outscored their opponents by five tries to three, but flyhalf Charles Williams missed three conversions, while opposite number Nivan Petersen made no mistake with three conversions and four penalty goals.
In what was effectively a ‘quarter-final’ showdown, the Ixias started the match with fire in their bellies as they frustrated the Eagles.
CUT lock Brendon Fortuin strode over before hooker Janus Venter’s 11th try of the campaign had him break the record for most Varsity Cup tries in a season.
However, from there NWU took control of the game, as lock Jeandré Leonard scored a brace of tries, which included a magnificent seven-pointer.
Petersen knocked over both conversions and landed two penalties to push out the score to 25-15 at half time.
Ixias inside centre Heino Bezuidenhout pulled back a try 10 minutes into the second half as they attempted to stage a comeback, but the Eagles put paid to their initial attempt when flank Ruben Dreyer scored a try, with Petersen kicking the conversion and adding a penalty.
The men from Bloemfontein continued unabated, though, as Venter earned his brace before replacement scrumhalf Xander Botha showed immense strength to spin, tuck and dive over the line despite the attention of several purple defenders.
Ultimately, it was not to be for the Ixias as the Eagles saw out the remaining time to book their spot in the semi-finals.
Player That Rocks: Jeandré Leonard (FNB NWU Eagles)
CUT Ixias – Tries: Brendon Fortuin, Janus Venter (2), Heino Bezuidenhout, Xander Botha. Conversions: Charles Williams (2). Penalty: Williams.
NWU Eagles – Tries: Jeandré Leonard (1×5, 1×7), Ruben Dreyer. Conversions: Nivan Petersen (3). Penalties: Petersen (4).
UJ 20 (8) WITS 22 (7)
Earlier in the day, Wits flyhalf Keagan Lailvaux kicked an 81st-minute drop goal to break UJ hearts in the Johannesburg derby.
With the win, Wits leapfrogged UJ into eighth place on the Varsity Cup log.
Player That Rocks: Hlumelo Ndudula (FNB Wits)
UJ – Tries: Mpho Kubheka, Kayden Kiewit, Nkondlo Radebe. Conversion: Jurich Claasens. Penalty: Claasens.
Wits – Tries: Hlumelo Ndudula (2), Setshaba Mokoena. Conversions: Keagan Lailvaux (2). Drop goal: Lailvaux.