The Border Bulldogs were rolled over easily as the Ford Pumas thumped them 41-10 (half-time 24-3) in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday.
The scoreline certainly did not lie in terms of the Pumas' dominance as their powerful pack took firm control in damp conditions and their backline had more pace and precision than their Bulldogs counterparts.
The bonus-point win maintained the Pumas' challenge for top spot, although the EP Kings are still in prime positon with an eight-point lead over the Mpumalanga side with two rounds of league play remaining.
The Pumas took a little while to settle in front of 14 305 people at Mbombela Stadium, but they opened the scoring in the 15th minute as star fullback Coenie van Wyk crossed for a thrilling try.
Border flyhalf Reinhardt Gerber pulled three points back for the Bulldogs with a 22nd-minute penalty, but the rest of the half was a cruise for the Pumas as they comfortably adapted to the wet conditions, thanks to their gritty forwards.
Scrumhalf Shaun Venter, who sparked numerous attacks, went over for the Pumas' second try two minutes later and centre and captain JW Jonker showed his experience as he glided over three minutes later.
The reliable boot of flyhalf Naas Olivier accounted for all three conversions and the well-travelled 30-year-old also kicked a penalty in the 34th minute to ensure the Pumas reached the break in firm control.
Olivier also began the second-half scoring with a penalty, stretching the lead to 27-3 and, just two minutes later, the Pumas quickly spread the ball wide and wing Wilhelm Loock, who gave a typically passionate display, crossed for the try.
Despite looking all at sea for the last half-hour, the Bulldogs did manage to score a try of their own through centre Neill Jacobs, with Gerber turning it into a seven-pointer with the conversion.
But the Pumas rounded-off an action-packed display as Venter punched his way through for his second try and Mpumalanga's fifth overall.
The Punas will go into their last two round-robin games needing to make up ground on the Kings to qualify for a home final.
The crunch game is next Friday against the Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, with the Pumas then finishing the league section against the Griffons back at the Mbombela Stadium.
FORD PUMAS - Tries: Coenie van Wyk, Shaun Venter (2), JW Jonker, Wilhelm Loock. Conversions: Naas Olivier (4), Carl Bezuidenhout. Penalties: Olivier (2).
BORDER BULLDOGS - Try: Neill Jacobs. Conversion: Reinhardt Gerber. Penalty: Gerber.