In front of a small but vociferous crowd on a beautiful, cool and windless evening, the Border Bulldogs played some brilliant rugby at times against the South Western Districts Eagles, but they let a 23-14 halftime lead slip and were beaten 33-31 by the Eagles with a nail-biting end as fullback Masixole Banda missed a conversion which would have left the game a draw.
In the first half everything seemed to go right for the Bulldogs. They played an expansive game, their defence was good and they attacked at all times, keeping the spectators on the edge of their seats throughout a thoroughly entertaining match.
The Eagles appeared to be listless at times during the first half and seemed to be playing with clipped wings. Towards the middle of the first half, two runaway tries ensured 14 easy points to Border. It gave them a 20-7 lead after Banda had succeeded with two penalties, one in the second minute, and Eagles skipper Roy Godfrey had scored a try after eight minutes, converted by fullback Elric Vuuren.
The Bulldogs two tries were scored by centre Lundi Ralarala and Banda, who converted both.
On the stroke of halftime, SWD flank Shaun Raubenheimer managed to breach the Border defence, with Van Vuuren succeeding again with the kick.
Banda tried a drop goal early in the second half which just slipped past the left upright but moments later he succeeded with his third penalty from the 22-metre line after the Eagles were offside.
Thereafter the Eagles clicked into top gear and ran in three tries - two converted - with only another penalty to Banda in reply. The tries went to scrumhalf Dwayne Kelly and replacements Kurt Haupt and Daniel Roberts.
With time running out and the score 33-26 to the Eagles, Border wing Lindani Ndlela broke away and streaked down the left side to score in the corner. Banda however pushed the conversion wide amid groans from the crowd, and a chance to draw the game went begging. The hooter sounded moments later, leaving the Bulldogs winless after four matches.
Border Bulldogs: Tries: Centre Lundi Ralarala, fullback Masixole Banda, wing Lindani Ndlela. Penalties: Banda (4). Conversions: Banda (2).
SWD Eagles: Tries: Prop Roy Godfrey, flank Shaun Raubenheimer, scrumhalf Dwayne Kelly, replacements Kurt Haupt and Daniel Roberts. Conversions: Fullback Elric van Vuuuren (4).