A 77th-minute Karlo Aspeling penalty helped the Border Bulldogs to a 26-25 (halftime 12-10) win over the Regent Boland Kavaliers in their Vodacom Cup clash at the Buffalo City Municipality Stadium in East London on Friday.
Both teams crossed the whitewash on three occasions, but substitute hooker Heinrich Pretorius, who scored twice on the night, appeared to clinch victory for the away side when he scored with five minutes remaining.
However, some ill-discipline on their own try line two minutes later cost Boland dear, and the Border fullback kicked his side to a memorable triumph – their first of a difficult campaign.
Despite winning the battle of the wooden spoon, the Bulldogs remain bottom in the South Section with five points, while the Kavaliers sit one place higher on eight.
The visitors opened the scoring in just the third minute, as fullback Jacquin Jansen broke through a poor Bulldogs defence, and his offload at the 22-metre line gifted centre Braam Gerber the easiest of finishes under the posts.
The setback appeared to click Border into gear though, and after applying sustained pressure on their opponents, winger Joe Seerane dotted down in the 13th minute for his fifth try of the season. Flyhalf Dale Sabbagh was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt though, and his counterpart Ricardo Croy put Boland back out to a 10-5 lead four minutes later with a penalty that came from some Bulldogs indiscipline at the breakdown.
Croy then had an even easier opportunity for three points in the 20th minute, but his effort was away to the right. It looked as though it would be the last threat to the scoreboard in the opening stanza, as a string of errors from both sides let proceedings peter out.
However, the hosts struck on the brink of halftime, as hooker Dean Muir controlled the ball well at the back of a potent rolling maul to dot down in the corner. Sabbagh was successful with the difficult conversion that followed too, and Border enjoyed a somewhat undeserved two-point lead at the interval.
Lifted by their late first-half score, the Bulldogs were all over the Boland side from the restart, and they finally had some points to show for their dominance in the 45th minute as loosehead Kwezi Mkhafu cleaned up a loose ball and dived over the line. Despite the conversion miss, the home fans could dare to dream of a first win of the season as their team led 17-10.
Once again though, the Border defence was caught on the break and Pretorius sidled through a breakdown on the try line in the 51st minute for Boland’s second of the night. The ensuing Croy conversion levelled things up at 17 apiece, but it looked as though the home side were to hit back within seconds as Ruan Jacobs chased an up-and-under and scored under the posts.
Controversially, the winger was ruled to have been in front of the kicker by the TMO, and, in a cruel twist, Croy slotted the resultant penalty from the infringement.
Buoyed by the injustice, the Bulldogs levelled matters in the 56th minute with a penalty from Aspeling, and a second three pointer from the fullback 10 minutes later edged them ahead 23-20.
The men from the Cape then wrestled control of the contest, and were rewarded in the 75th minute as Pretorius crashed over for his second of the night. But Croy’s miss from the kicking tee proved to be crucial, as the see-saw encounter was decided two minutes later when the Kavaliers conceded a penalty in front of their posts. Aspeling made no mistake, and Border hung on for their first win of the competition.
BORDER BULLDOGS – Tries: Joe Seerane, Dean Muir, Kwezi Mkhafu; Conversions: Dale Sabbagh; Penalties: Karlo Aspeling (3)
REGENT BOLAND KAVALIERS – Tries: Braam Gerber, Ulrich Pretorius (2); Conversions: Ricardo Croy (2); Penalties: Ricardo Croy (2)