The Leopards turned in a strong second-half performance to see off the Regent Boland Kavaliers 39-34 (half-time 15-24) in an entertaining Absa Currie Cup First Division match at Profert Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
The Leopards outscored their opponents by 24 points to 10 in the second half as their powerful forwards took charge of the encounter, but both teams played their part in serving up an enjoyable match as they combined for 10 tries.
The hosts kept their semifinal hopes alive as they ran in four second-half tries, and six in total, while Boland slipped to their eighth defeat in 10 matches. However, they picked up two bonus points for their efforts against the Leopards.
The home team made an electric start to the match when they scored the first try just nine seconds after the game had started.
The hosts had kicked off but the Leopards made a hash of gathering the ball and Leopards’ left wing Berty Visser showed wonderful awareness to gather the loose ball before running clear to score.
Boland narrowed the gap thanks to two penalties from outside centre Cheswin Williams before the visitors took the lead when Williams scored an unconverted try.
Williams ended the match with 19 points courtesy of a try, conversion and four penalties.
Leopards’ flyhalf Andre Pretorius had a kicked charged down by his opposite number Adnaan Oesman deep inside the host’s 22-metre area. The ball took a wicked bounce inside the in-goal area and Williams was alert enough to gather the ball to score to make the score 11-7 after 19 minutes.
But the Leopards hit back six minutes later when flank Marius Fourie was on hand to drive over from close-range after a sweeping backline move had carried the ball into Boland’s 22-metre area.
However, the Kavaliers were playing with increasing confidence and 10 minutes before the break they grabbed their second try after scrumhalf Bolla Conradie took a quick tap free-kick on the Leopards’ 22-metre line.
Conradie drifted through the Leopards’ defence before off-loading to his unmarked fullback Eric Zana who dotted down in the right-hand corner.
Williams and Andre Pretorius then traded penalties before the Kavaliers ended the half strongly when right wing Cornal Hendricks rounded off a backline move to score in the tackle.
Boland may have ended the first half strongly but the Leopards came out all guns blazing and they grabbed a try just 26 seconds after the restart when eighthman Spanner Pretorius broke clear from deep inside his own half before putting in a speculative kick ahead.
Replacement scrumhalf Jaco Grobler was the quickest man to the ball and he went over between the posts for a converted try.
The Kavaliers hit back seven minutes later when No 8 Zandre Jordaan intercepted a pass on the Leopards’ 10-metre line before galloping clear for a converted try.
The tries were continuing to flow and the Leopards nabbed their bonus-point try in the 53rd minute when flank Robert Kruger was mauled over to make the score 31-27 in Boland’s favour.
Williams stretched the lead with a 57th-minute penalty before the Leopards clawed their way back into the contest once again when hooker Edgar Marutlulle barged his way over in the left-hand corner for a well-deserved try.
The Leopards then hit the lead for the first time since the 30th minute when lock Brendon Snyman barged his way over from close-range for a converted try in the 67th minute to make sure of the victory.
Leopards – Tries: Berty Visser, Marius Fourie, Jaco Grobler, Robert Kruger, Edgar Marutlulle Brendon Snyman; Conversions: Andre Pretorius (3); Penalty: Pretorius.
Regent Boland Kavaliers – Tries: Cheswin Williams, Eric Zana, Cornal Hendricks, Zandre Jordaan; Conversion: Williams; Penalties: Williams (4).