A heroic defensive effort from the Vodacom Blue Bulls gave them a tense 28-23 victory over the SWD Eagles in their new provincial tournament fixture at Outeniqua Park on Friday night.
The Blue Bulls led 21-10 at halftime.
It really was a game of two halves, the visitors dominating the first 40 minutes before the hosts fought back in the second 40 before falling agonizingly close to securing what would have been a tremendous comeback.
Unfortunately for them they couldn’t score that elusive fourth try despite playing the final 10 minutes of the game on the Blue Bulls try line. After winning three penalties, they couldn’t breach the defence of Hanro Liebenberg and his charges and eventually lost the ball which resulted in the final whistle being blown.
Despite dominating the early exchanges, it was the Blue Bulls who conceded the first try of the match. They took an early 6-0 lead thanks to two penalties from fly-half Tony Jantjies. The Eagles struggled to get out of their half but when they eventually did they scored the first try of the game with their first visit to the Blue Bulls 22.
Layle Delo found his way over the line after a pickup from a ruck 5 meters from the line. Jacquin Jansen slotted the conversion to give the Eagles a narrow 7-6 lead.
Their lead didn’t last very long as the visitors came back strongly, scoring two tries in the space of two minutes to regain the lead which they never lost for the remainder of the match.
Ruben van Heerden was the first try-scorer before fullback Divan Rossouw pulled off a lovely solo try by kicking the ball down field, chasing it down and then the Eagles failed to control it bounced neatly into his path for a second five-pointer.
The Eagles were much better in the second half, scoring two tries in the space of 10 minutes through Lyndon Hartnick and Kurt Haupt which left them trailing by only one point and 30 minutes still to play.
Hansie Graaff missed a penalty in the 55th minute which would have given the Eagles the lead, but his attempt was wide to the left.
The Blue Bulls managed a crucial score after that when Alandre van Rooyen was driven over from a rolling maul which all but sealed the result for the visitors.
In one last attempt by the Eagles to win the game, they managed to put 17 phases together on the Blue Bulls try line, but they couldn’t breach the defence and after winning three penalties in a row time ran out as the final whistle went.
SWD Eagles 23 (10), Vodacom Blue Bulls 28 (21).
Eagles – Tries: Layle Delo, Lyndon Hartnick, Kurt Haupt. Conversion: Jacquin Jansen. Penalties: Jansen and Thomas Kean.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruben van Heerden, Divan Rossouw, Alandre van Rooyen. Conversions: Tony Jantjies and Tinus de Beer. Penalties: Jantjies (3).