The Vodacom Blue Bulls this past weekend took a big step forward in their hopes of finishing the round-robin stages of the Absa Under-19 Championship as the top team as they stretched their lead on the log to 11 points and booked their semifinal berth with four matches remaining.
With a convincing lead on the table, the side will in all likelihood need only a bonus point victory to guarantee their home semifinal, as some of the top teams will face each other in the next few weeks.
Further down on the log the Sharks and MTN Golden Lions look set to battle it out for the other home semifinal, but with five teams still in the running for the other three semifinal spots, the competition is expected to come down to the wire.
In the weekend’s matches, the Vodacom Blue Bulls produced a dominant performance against DHL Western Province for a 46-16 victory in Pretoria, the Toyota Free State pipped the MTN Golden Lions 35-34 in Bloemfontein and the Leopards defeated Border 19-16 in East London.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 46 (32) DHL Western Province 16 (9)
The Vodacom Blue Bulls started their clash against DHL Western Province with a bang as they earned a brace of five tries in the first half, which dealt a big blow to the visitors hopes of a victory.
So dominant was their performance Western Province’s only points in the first half were compliments of two penalties and a drop goal by Christopher Smith.
But despite trailing 32-9 at the break, the Cape side did not give up and tightened up their defence, which limited the home side to only two more tries.
They also stepped up their attack and earned the rewards with a try in the 60th minute.
But unfortunately the damage inflicted by the Blue Bulls in the first half dashed their hopes of a victory.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 46 (32) – Tries: Christiaan Massyn, Daniel Kriel (2), Dayan van der Westhuizen, Ganfried May, Juan-Phillip Smith, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Juan-Phillip Smith (4). Penalty: Phillip-Smith.
DHL Western Province 16 (9) – Tries: Attie van Rensburg. Conversion: Christopher Smith. Penalties: Smith (2). Drop Goal: Smith.
Toyota Free State 35 (15) MTN Golden Lions 34 (15)
In Bloemfontein the Toyota Free State and MTN Golden Lions were neck-on-neck in the first half despite a solid start by the home side which earned them 15-0 lead by the 20th minute.
Both teams scored two tries and kicked a penalty to finish the first half level at 15-15.
Neither team gave an inch in the second half, as they both ran in three tries and remained in the contest until the end.
So close was the match the extra point earned by the Free State’s two penalties and two conversions, compared to the Lions’ three conversions and one penalty handed the home team a narrow one-point victory.
Toyota Free State 35 (15) – Tries: Donavan Gissing, Henco van der Westhuizen, Marthinus Oosthuizen, Nicolaas Lee, Stephan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Pieter Jordaan (2). Penalties: Lee, Jordaan.
MTN Golden Lions 34 (15) – Tries: Barend Herbst, Carlisle Nel, Jano Venter, Malcolm Marx (2). Conversions: Brandan Hewit (3). Penalty: Hewit.
Border 16 (3) Leopards 19 (14)
A strong start by the Leopards set them up for their 19-16 victory against Border. The visitors started the clash with a bang as they crossed the tryline twice in the first 11 minutes, to take a 14-0 lead.
But Border managed to contain them shortly after, while flyhalf Werner Barnard earned his team’s first points four minutes before half time compliments of a penalty.
Barnard kept the scoreboard ticking in the second half with two more penalties and converted try to take a 16-14 lead. But a late try by Leopards flank Estehan Visagie on the stroke of fulltime allowed them to snatch the victory.
Border 16 (3) – Try: Werner Barnard. Conversion: Barnard. Penalties: Barnard (3).
Leopards 19 (14) – Tries: Chriswill September, Estehan Visagie, Jeandre Rudolph. Conversions: Lourens Boddington (2).