Pukke beat Roodepoort 26-25 in a cliffhanger Pirates Grand Challenge final at Wits University on Saturday. THEO GARRUN reports.
The Pirates Grand Challenge is the Golden Lions’ league trophy and Pukke, although they are affiliated with the Leopards Rugby Union, have been allowed to play in it after the club rugby structure in that province collapsed a few years ago.
Roodepoort finished fourth in the league phase of the competition, and that only after the Wanderers were docked five points for teams not fulfilling fixtures, so getting to the final, and then coming within a hair’s breadth of taking the trophy was a remarkable achievement.
The game was a classic clash of contrasting styles. The physicality of the more experienced Roodepoort forwards threatened to blow the students away, and their three tries were all ground out by relentless driving at the line. Pukke had the pace out wide and they ran the ball at every chance.
Roodepoort were bloody-minded in defence, however, and they outscored Pukke by three tries to two in the end.
In a game this close, it was always going to come down to goal-kicking and Pukke’s BF van Staden converted their two tries and kicked three penalties before slotting a drop goal with five minutes left to clinch the win.
Roodepoort were leading by two points at that stage, thanks to a 50m drop goal by Byron Godfrey and it looked like they were going to cause a major upset, but Van Staden stepped up and ensured that the trophy is going to Potchefstroom.
Pukke went into an early 8-0 lead via a penalty by Van Staden and a try by Keagan Tait, but Roodepoort struck back through a driving maul try, finished off by flank Wesley Pretorius. Van Staden got two more penalties to one by Terrence Longhurst for Roodepoort and the sides changed ends with Pukke 16-8 up.
It seemed a good bet that the big Roodepoort forwards were going to tire in the second half and Pukke would run away with it, but that was not to be. The local side got stronger, if anything. They tackled like demons and once their forwards started rumbling forward, they were difficult to stop.
They were first to score in the second half when No 8 Ruan du Toit went over next to the posts, which made it 16-15 to Pukke. Hooker Percy Ngadi then rounded off a lineout maul to stretch Pukke’s lead to 23-15. The Roodepoort forwards were at it again within minutes and a try by the other flanker, Dwayne Pienaar, converted by Godfrey, made it 23-22 to Pukke.
Godfrey and Van Staden then traded drop goals in a frantic final few minutes which saw Roodepoort snatch the lead and then have it taken away from them at the death.
Pukke – Tries: Keagan Tait, Percy Ngadi. Conversions: BF van Staden (2). Penalties: Van Staden (3). Drop goal: Van Staden.
Roodepoort – Tries: Wesley Pretorius, Ruan du Toit, Dwayne Pienaar. Conversions: Byron Godfrey (2). Penalty: Jacques Pretorius. Drop goal: Godfrey.
Photo: Theo Garrun