The Border Bulldogs held on grimly to pip the Regent Boland Cavaliers 21-19 in an exciting Absa Currie Cup First Division clash at Buffalo City Stadium on Friday in a game played in cold, miserable conditions, although the sun did break through late in the game.
The win was Border’s second of the season, ending a five-match losing streak since their 22-20 victory over the Griffons in East London six weeks ago.
In the end it was only a conversion that made the difference, with Boland flyhalf Eric Zana missing two vital conversions which would have brought victory to his team. Border scored two tries, one conversion and three penalties, while the Cavaliers finished with two tries and three penalties.
The halftime score was 13-9 in favour of the home team.
Border went on the attack from the opening whistle and were soon on the board when the Boland forwards failed to bind properly at a set scrum about 30 metres out and straight in front of the poles. Fullback Dale Sabbagh had no problem in kicking the ball over.
Three minutes later, though, Boland retaliated with a penalty from Zana after an offside movement by Border.
In the 21st minute Border flank and captain Gareth Krause managed to worm himself through the Boland defence to score a well-earned try which Sabbagh converted.
For the rest of the half there was some scrappy play with Sabbagh adding another penalty, and Zana two more – the second one in the last minute of play.
The tall and strong Boland flank Lodewyk Els though was the star performer for his team in the first half, with some storming runs but he was kept out by some excellent Border defence.
Border almost scored in the first minute of the second half, with centre Dwayne Jenner diving over and celebrating, only for the referee to signal there was knock-on during the move.
Border virtually camped on the Boland line for the first 10 minutes of the second half with the forwards in particular winning a big percentage of ball.
In the 13th minute Sabbagh put over the easiest of penalties and Border were rewarded for their hard work.
After 19 minutes Border scrumhalf Sinovuyo Nyoka received a yellow card for dangerous play right in front of his posts and from the resultant tap-penalty some eight metres out, Boland eighthman Phillipus van Zyl barged over with half the Border team hanging on, but Zana missed the conversion. (16-14).
Play then swung to the other end of the field with Border attacking down the right side. From a maul replacement loose-forward Juan Pretorius managed to score. The conversion attempt by Sabbagh failed. (21-14)
To their credit the Cavaliers continued attacking and from broken play the ball was sent wide to flank Franzel September, who pinned his ears back and raced 40 metres to the line for a brilliant try. But Zana missed the conversion. (21-19)
The match ended with Border well on the attack and the last five or six minutes were very tense with Border, egged on by a small yet vocal crowd, managing to hold onto their two-point lead.
Border - Tries: Gareth Krause, Juan Pretorius; Penalties: Dale Sabbagh (3); Conversions: Sabbagh.
Boland - Tries: Phillipus van Zyl, Franzel September; Penalties: Eric Zana (3).