The Down Touch Griffons secured their first victory of the season by beating the Leopards 34-28 (halftime 10-14) in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match at the North West Stadium in Welkom on Saturday.
Both teams scored four tries, but Louis Strydom's boot proved the difference as the Griffons' flyhalf knocked over four conversions, a penalty and a 77th minute drop-goal to hand the Leopards their second consecutive defeat of the campaign.
The home side dominated territory for the first 20 minutes of the first half and deservedly led 3-0 after 12 minutes through a penalty from Strydom, after the Leopards were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle.
Soon after the restart, the Leopards were awarded a penalty when the Griffons entered the maul from the side.
Johan Laker took a quick tap and fed Edgar Marutlulle and the hooker barged his way over for the opening try of the match. Adriaan Engelbrecht converted the try from in front of the posts to give the Leopards a 7-3 lead.
The visitors extended their lead to 11 points with a try by Edmar Marais in the left hand corner. It was just reward for the Leopards who had kept the hosts under constant pressure for almost 10 minutes, with the Griffons giving away a few penalties, which the Leopards kicked to touch. The left winger sauntered across the line untouched after the ball was spread wide with some slick handling.
But just three minutes later, the home side struck back when Ossie Nortje collected turn-over ball and burst from the base of a ruck and beat the cover-defence to score under the posts, with the scrumhalf showing a good turn of speed. Strydom converted the try to reduce the deficit to just four points.
The Leopards thought that they had scored their third try when Marutlulle went over in the right-hand corner from a short line-out, but the TMO adjudged that the pass from Morne Hanekom to Marutlulle went forward.
It was the home side who began the second half strongly and it took the men in purple just four minutes to regain the lead they last held in the 14th minute. With the hosts camped on the Leopards tryline, Nortje, who looked lively all afternoon, spotted a gap and raced through from five metres out to score his second try of the afternoon, with Strydom slotting the conversion.
The Leopards responded strongly after that and the speedy hooker, Marutlulle, burst down the centre of the field and was brilliantly brought down by the cover defence just a metre short of the line. The Leopards were eventually awarded a scrum after the ball was held up over the line. But handling let them down and the hosts were able to clear their line.
Four minutes later, the Griffons were penalised for collapsing a scrum on their own 22-metre line but instead of taking the three points on offer, the visitors decided to kick for touch, but Engelbrecht kicked the ball too deep and gave possession away.
With 20 minutes remaining, Nortje lofted a wonderful box-kick, which bounced slightly awkwadly for the Leopards' defence. The Griffons pounced and turned the ball over which allowed Werner Griesel to slide between two defenders and score close to the poles. With Strydom slotting his fourth kick at goal, the home side opened up a 10-point lead.
The Griffons continued to apply pressure to the visitors, but turn-over ball on the Leopards' tryline allowed Marais to race away for his second try, which was converted by Engelbrecht. This score closed the gap to just three points with only eight minutes remaining.
The Griffons went back on the attack, sensing that their first victory was in sight, and secured their bonus point for scoring four tries when a fantastic break by Erik le Roux, saw him go over under the poles. The open-side flanker broke through three defenders and then side-stepped the fullback to round off a good try.
Strydom then put the cherry on the cake when he slotted his drop-goal with three minutes left, leaving the visitors 13 points adrift. But a break-out from the Leopards from their own line, allowed Luther Obi to force his way over the line, which secured the Leopards' their bonus point for scoring four tries.
Engelbrecht missed the conversion, but the referee instructed the flyhalf to retake the conversion, and instructed the Griffons' defenders not to charge. The flyhalf promptly slotted the second attempt to secure another bonus point for the visitors, for losing by less than seven points.
Griffons - Tries: Ossie Nortje (2), Werner Griesel, Erik le Roux; Conversions: Louis Strydom (4) ; Penalty: Strydom; Drop-goal: Strydom
Leopards - Tries: Edmar Marais (2), Edgar Marutlulle, Luther Obi; Conversions: Adriaan Engelbrecht (4)