The Ford Pumas pulled away from the second quarter as they smashed the SWD Eagles 70-27 (half-time 35-6) in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday.
The bonus-point win was vital for the Pumas as they try to prevent the EP Kings from getting too far away from them at the top of the log. The Kings temporarily stretched their lead to 13 points with their victory the previous evening over the Valke, but the Mpumalanga side ensured the gap returned to eight points at the end of the 10th of 14 rounds of league play.
If the match had been overseen by the police rather than referee Joey Salmans, the Pumas might have been charged with assault with intent to cause grevious bodily harm as they steamrolled the Eagles, a dominant pack and their powerful runners in the backline running amok.
Flank Jaco Bouwer scored a hat-trick of tries and wing Wilhelm Loock crossed twice in the space of four minutes either side of halftime. Flyhalf JC Roos also kicked with tremendous composure and accuracy as he succeeded with all nine of his conversion attempts and replacement lock Christo le Roux kicked the 10th just for good measure.
The Pumas began on the right note as Bouwer scored in the first minute and a second try by centre Jerome Pretorius gave them a 14-3 lead after the first quarter.
The home side's tight five were in firm control and the Pumas' loose trio capitalised with Uzair Cassiem and Bouwer scoring tries in the 24th and 32nd minutes respectively, before Loock was able to make good ground down the left and score just three minutes before the break.
Two penalties from fullback Elric van Vuuren were all the Eagles had to show from the first half, but they can take some credit for battling on gamely right until the final whistle and they scored three tries in the second half.
Loock showed that he can turn on the after-burners as he scored straight from the second-half restart and, given the flood of scoring that saw the Pumas grab four tries in the previous 17 minutes, it must have felt like years for the 2 000 home supporters before they crossed the tryline again in the 58th minute through lock Nqubeko Zulu.
Roos converted to stretch the lead to 49-6, prompting the Eagles to bring on most of their bench and they did have an impact, relatively speaking of course.
A try by replacement hooker Wayne Khan cut the deficit to 13-49 with Van Vuuren's conversion, before Pumas star Bouwer found the space to barge over for his hat-trick try in the 69th minute.
Centre JW Jonker also found the gap to score six minutes later, but the Eagles had the reserves and the determination to score twice in the closing stages, the impressive Van Vuuren grabbing tries to give him a tally of 22 points from the match.
But the Pumas fittingly had the final say as replacement wing Ashwin Scott scooted over in the corner for their 10th and final try.
Ford Pumas - Tries: Jaco Bouwer (3), Jerome Pretorius, Uzair Cassiem, Wilhelm Loock (2), Nqubeko Zulu, JW Jonker, Ashwin Scott. Conversions: JC Roos (9), Christo le Roux.
SWD Eagles - Tries: Wayne Khan, Elric van Vuuren (2). Conversions: Van Vuuren (3). Penalties: Van Vuuren (2).