The four semifinalists in the Absa Under-19 Provincial Championship have been determined, but one of the two home semifinals are still up for grabs with one pool round remaining.
In an exciting penultimate round the Leopards, who earned two log points for scoring four tries but losing within seven points, cemented their semifinal berth alongside the Vodacom Blue Bulls, MTN Golden Lions and the Sharks, while the Lions, who eliminated defending champions DHL WP, leaped into second place on the log table above the Sharks.
But with the Durban side only one point back, either team could secure the remaining home semifinal.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls already secured top spot a couple of weeks back.
The MTN Golden Lions defeated DHL Western Province 21-13 in Cape Town on Saturday, and on Friday the Toyota Free State beat the Leopards 27-20 in Potchefstroom and the Vodacom Blue Bulls registered a 23-13 victory against the Sharks in Pretoria.
DHL Western Province 13 (8) MTN Golden Lions 21 (6)
In Cape Town the MTN Golden Lions found their rhythm after a tightly-fought first half against DHL Western Province in which they managed to score only six points, compliments of two penalties by flyhalf Brandan Hewit.
Western Province, meanwhile, were forced to settle for a penalty by Christopher Smith and a Jason Worrall try on the stroke of half time for their eight points.
The second half was equally close as the teams gave their all, but another penalty by Hewit and two tries by Carlisle Nel and Kock Peter Marx to only one try by WP prop Wesley Adonis cancelled out the home team’s efforts and allowed the Lions to hop up a place on the log.
The defeat for Western Province, meanwhile, knocked them out of the semifinal race.
DHL Western Province 13 (8) – Tries: Jason Worrall, Wesley Adonis. Penalty: Christopher Smith.
MTN Golden Lions 21 (6) – Tries: Carlisle Nel, Kock Peter Marx. Conversion: Brandan Hewit. Penalties: Hewit (3).
Leopards 20 (5) Toyota Free State 27 (12)
The clash in Potchefstroom between the Leopards and Toyota Free State was also tight, despite the Bloemfontein team starting off strongly with two tries in the first 23 minutes for a 12-0 lead.
The Leopards clawed their way onto the scoreboard two minutes before half time as captain Jeandre Rudolph crashed over for their first try.
Both teams stepped up their attack in the second half, which resulted in five tries being scored in the 35 minutes.
Rudolph had the first say after the break as he scored his second five-pointer two minutes in, which Marchell Hattingh and Sias Koen backed up with two more tries to secure their bonus point.
The Free State also dotted down two tries in the second half to increase their tally to four, but the team’s superior goal-kicking, which earned them two conversions and a penalty proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
Leopards 20 (5) – Tries: Jeandre Rudolph (2), Marchell Hattingh, Sias Koen.
Toyota Free State 27 (12) – Tries: Barend Bornman, Donavan Gissing, Jean-Luke van Zyl, Louis Venter. Conversions: Pieter Jordaan, Warren Potgieter. Penalty: Potgieter.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 23 (5) The Sharks 13 (8)
In Pretoria the Vodacom Blue Bulls delivered a strong second-half showing and overcame a late red card to stretch their winning run in the competition to 11 matches.
The home side found themselves trailing 8-5 at the break after each side crossed the tryline once, and had to work hard to breach the Sharks’ defence after the break.
But they managed to break through with Leighton van Wyk and Duncan Matthews scoring tries 20 minutes apart and Marais adding a penalty to build up a decent lead.
Barend Potgieter of the Sharks, however, earned his team a five-pointer with 17 minutes to go, but with the Blue Bulls’ defence holding, those were the only points they accumulated in the second half.
Vodacom Blue Bulls 23 (5) – Tries: Daniel Kriel, Duncan Matthews, Leighton van Wyk. Conversion: Kobus Marais. Penalties: Marais (2).
The Sharks 13 (8) – Tries: Barend Potgieter, Michael Cloete. Penalty: Colin Willemse.