The Vodacom Blue Bulls and MTN Golden Lions ensured that the Absa Under-19 Provincial Championship final would be a Gauteng derby at DHL Newlands on Saturday after emerging victorious in their respective semifinals this past weekend.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls defeated the Leopards 37-21 at Loftus Versfeld after topping the log table at the conclusion of the round-robin stages, while the MTN Golden Lions held their nerve in a hard-fought semifinal against The Sharks at Ellis Park to book their final berth.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 37 (17) Leopards 21 (14)
In Pretoria the Vodacom Blue Bulls broke away after a tight first half to stretch their unbeaten run to 13 matches and advance to the final.
The Leopards started the match strongly with two converted tries in the first 13 minutes. But the Blue Bulls hit back soon after with two tries to add to a penalty by flyhalf Kobus Marais for a narrow 17-14 lead at the break.
The Blue Bulls found their rhythm in the second half and did well to use their point-scoring chances, which earned them two more tries by Wilco Louw and Keagon Gordon respectively in the third quarter.
Marais also did his bit to keep his team on the front foot as he added two more penalties to push the side into a comfortable position to win the match at 37-14 up.
The Leopards, however, refused to go down without a fight and they earned the rewards with Blessing Makhayhu crossing the tryline four minutes from full time, despite his team-mate Derek Taylor being sin-binned a minute earlier. The defeat, however, marked the end of the Leopards’ campaign.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 37 (17) – Tries: Christiaan Massyn, Hendrik Viljoen, Keagon Gordon, Wilco Louw. Conversions: Kobus Marais (4). Penalties: Marais (3).
Leopards 21 (14) – Tries: Blessing Makhayhu, Chriswill September, Jeandre Rudolph. Conversions: Gysbert van Wyk, Lourens Boddington (2).
MTN Golden Lions 27 (18) The Sharks 25 (17)
The semifinal between the MTN Golden Lions and The Sharks at Ellis Park was neck-on-neck from the start as the teams fought hard to keep alive their final hopes.
The Sharks’ ill-discipline, however, cost them dearly, as three late penalties by Golden Lions flyhalf Brandan Hewit ultimately earned the Johannesburg side the victory.
The Golden Lions opened up the scoring with a penalty in the seventh minute by Hewit, but they suffered a setback minutes later as Pieter Scholtz received a yellow card.
The Sharks capitalised on their extra man immediately with Bartholomeus le Roux crossing the tryline, which flyhalf Jean-Luc Du Plessis converted and subsequently added a penalty to push the visitors into the lead.
The next 15 minutes proved to be tight as the Golden Lions scored two tries compliments of Malcolm Marx and Jano Venter, while the Sharks added their second try. Hewit added another penalty for the Golden Lions to hand the home side an 18-17 lead.
The second half was equally tense, although the Sharks had the first say as Christopher de Beer added their third try of the match in the 45th minute to force the visitors into the lead.
But penalties conceded at crucial times dealt the killer blow to the Durban side’s hopes of a final berth as Brandan Hewit slotted over three penalties in seven minutes to take a 27-25 lead with eight minutes to go.
They then succeeded in shutting out the Sharks to emerge victorious.
MTN Golden Lions 27 (18) – Tries: Jano Venter, Malcolm Marx. Conversion: Brandan Hewit. Penalties: Hewit (5).
The Sharks 25 (17) – Tries: Bartholomeus le Roux, Christopher de Beer, Sandile Kubeka. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Preez (2). Penalties: Du Preez (2).