WP crowned Challenge champs

Western Province beat Griquas 28-19 at Florida Park in Cape Town on Sunday to win the inaugural Provincial Rugby Challenge title. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.

Province came into this final on a 10-match winning streak, with eight from the round-robin stage and two in the playoffs against Free State and the Blue Bulls.

Griquas won six wins of their eight group matches (they lost once and drew once) and made light work of the EP Kings and Golden Lions in their two knockout matches.

It set the stage for a riveting decider between the two form teams in the competition, but Griquas didn’t even get a look-in as Province's ruthless first-half display laid the foundation for their victory.

In a physically dominant performance, Province enjoyed the lion’s share of territory and possession, controlled the rhythm of the game and bullied the visitors at the set pieces, which ultimately saw them outscore Griquas four tries to three.

Griquas were on the back foot from the outset and forced to make 12 tackles in the opening three minutes. And while they did repel WP on that occasion, it didn’t take the hosts long to break the deadlock. Wing Bjorn Basson intercepted a wild pass and sprinted away. He was brought down before the line, but the ball was recycled quickly and Basson retained possession to score.

Marcello Sampson doubled the lead with a try that originated from a counter-ruck inside the opposition 22. Griquas deserved credit for their effort in the first 20 minutes, but they started to fall off more tackles in the second quarter and WP took full advantage, with lock Jurie van Vuuren and Sampson both scoring as the hosts took a commanding 28-0 lead into half-time.

The second half continued in the same vein, but WP failed to add to their tally and when they were reduced to 14 men, the momentum shifted in Griquas’ favour.

The team from Kimberley started to play with newfound vigour. With the numerical advantage, they breached WP’s defence twice, as first prop Nicolaas Oosthuizen, and then centre Koch Marx burst over for tries.

With 20 minutes remaining, WP lost their attacking edge and were made to defend for their lives as Griquas camped inside their half of the field.

WP’s defence held firm until the 78th minute when Tertius Kruger scored for Griquas, but it served as a mere consolation as the hosts celebrated the win.

Western Province – Tries: Bjorn Basson, Marcello Sampson (2), Jurie van Vuuren. Conversions: Kurt Coleman (4).
Griquas – Tries: Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Koch Marx, Tertius Kruger. Conversions: Andre Swarts (2).

Western Province – 15 Craig Barry, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Brandon Thomson, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Eital Bredenkamp (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Dean Muir, 17 Ash Wells, 18 Eduard Zandberg, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Herschel Jantjies, 21 Ryan Oosthuizen, 22 Grant Hermanus.

Griquas – 15 Eric Zana, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Koch Marx, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 AJ Coertzen (c), 10 George Whitehead, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Pieter Jansen Van Vuren, 4 FP Pelser, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Liam Hendricks.
Subs: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Jonathan Janse Van Rensburg, 20 Renier Botha, 21 Andre Swarts, 22 Enver Brandt.

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Mariette Adams