DHL Western Province had to rely on the boot of wing SP Marais to hand them a 35-32 win (half time 15-17) over the Vodacom Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup semifinal that was decided in extra time at DHL Newlands on Saturday evening.
The opening quarter of the match proved to be a bruising affair as WP ran hard at a resolute Blue Bulls defence that did well not to break which forced Marais to land two penalty goals instead of opting for touch.
The visitors eventually found their groove as they managed to hold onto the ball long enough to set up several phases of attacking runs before flank Ruan Steenkamp powered his way over the chalk for the semifinal’s opening try in the 24th minute.
Steenkamp’s efforts were followed up by wing Duncan Matthews a few minutes later as the flyer ran a fantastic support line to receive the final pass from flyhalf Manie Libbok with Matthews running over for a try. Libbok converted with ease to hand his charges a 14-7 lead.
The match settled into a bit of a lull as both teams took turns on attack and defence which forced Marais and Libbok to trade penalties as the first half winded down before Marais added a further two penalties to cut the deficit to 17-15 at half time.
The Blue Bulls continued their fine form into the second half as a powerful lineout drive set the forward momentum that Libbok needed to slip through the defence to score a converted try.
The men from Cape Town finally found their way to the tryline as the ball was moved quickly to fullback Dillyn Leyds who delayed his pass to Marais to dot down in the left-hand corner. Marais added the extras.
WP’s patience on attack paid dividends in the 60th minute as wing Sergeal Peterson collected a high ball before sprinting towards the corner where he came agonizingly close to scoring but was ultimately denied by a great cover tackle.
The ball was quickly recycled to replacement scrumhalf Paul de Wet who simply had to fall over the line to score. Marais’ conversion handed WP the lead for the first time and was consolidated a few moments later as Marais sunk his sixth penalty goal of the evening.
The players showed no signs of fatigue in the final moments of what can only be described as a pulsating match as the Blue Bulls put together an attack that lasted 22 phases before a knock on denied them any opportunity to score.
The resulting scrum should have sealed the result for WP but a dominant shove by the men in blue saw replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier turn over possession with the ball being shovelled down the backline which opened a gap for outside centre Dylan Sage to score an unconverted try.
The match was subsequently forced into extra time with the first ten minute passage of play seeing no change in the score despite a penalty goal attempt by Marais.
WP snatched the lead in the opening minutes of the second half of extra time as Marais landed yet another penalty goal and although the Blue Bulls tried gallantly to wrap things up, it was DHL Western Province that held out to win 35-32 after 100 minutes of dramatic rugby.
DHL Western Province – Tries: SP Marais, Paul de Wet; Conversions: Marais (2); Penalties: Marais (7).
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruan Steenkamp, Duncan Matthews, Manie Libbok, Dylan Sage; Conversions: Libbok (3); Penalties: Libbok (2).