A last-minute conversion by fullback Justin Peach led the Boland Kavaliers to a dramatic 31-29 (halftime 7-19) comeback victory over the Valke in an Absa Currie Cup match in Wellington on Friday afternoon.
Superrugby reports that the Kavaliers’ perplexing inability to find their jumpers in the lineout, despite the presence of a towering Bradley Mockford in the second row, severely limited the home team’s ability to compete for territorial advantage, while a powerful Valke scrum further sullied the quality of their possession.
But it was clear that Boland have had their fill of defeats this season.
Their hunger for victory proved to be the deciding factor as the Kavaliers desperately fought their way out of the corner by delivering a two-punch knockout combination, to edge past the flagging Valke in the dying minutes of the match.
A brace of late tries by right winger Danwel Demas — added to earlier tries by loosehead prop Jean Botha, scrumhalf Marnus Hugo, and Hugo’s replacement Neil Papier — levelled the scores in the final minutes, after flyhalf Isma-eel Dollie converted the third try, and Peach won the match by converting the first and final tries.
The visitors streaked into the lead with three first-half tries from left winger Ernie Kruger (two) and blindside flanker Reg Muller. Lock Marius Coetzer and right wing Dewald Pretorius found paydirt in the second half, but fullback Jeff Perkins only managed to convert Kruger’s scores.
The home team scored first when Botha rumbled over from short-range after 17 minutes and Peach converted. But four minutes later, the Valke fought back after a fine display of handling by the backs put Kruger over for his first try.
Perkins’s conversion levelled the scores until, with five minutes remaining in the half, the Valke landed a pair of strikes. Weak defence from the home team saw Kruger penetrate the line to ground his second try of the match, before Muller went over untouched from a ten-metre pick-and-go on the stroke of half time.
Coach Deon Davids’s halftime pep talk must have been laced with nitroglycerin as the Kavaliers exploded into top form after the break. Hugo broke blind from a maul inside the Valke 22 to score two minutes into play to bring the home team within seven points.
Coetzer was driven over by the Valke pack 13 minutes later to give the visitors the four-try bonus point, but Boland responded immediately when Papier scored at the end of the third quarter, and Dollie’s conversion reduced the deficit to five points.
Pretorius stepped in from the right wing before powering over a Kavaliers defender to score with 15 minutes remaining.
But Boland again refused to surrender, and when Demas latched onto a skip pass from number eight Dries van Schalkwyk to burst over for his team’s fourth try and the bonus point with ten minutes remaining, the Kavaliers could taste victory.
The Valke did their best to defend their five-point lead by eating up the clock with a conservative driving game. With only moments remaining in the match, the Kavaliers came away with the ball and Demas streaked over to score under the posts and level the scores.
Peach’s simple conversion gave the home team the win — only their second of the season, but their fifth consecutive victory over the Valke.
The win provisionally lifts Boland from the bottom of the table, as they level the Valke on the standing with 13 log points.
Tries: Jean Botha, Marnus Hugo, Neil Papier, Danwel Demas (2).
Conversions: Justin Peach (2), Isma-eel Dollie.
Tries: Ernie Kruger (2), Reg Muller, Marius Coetzer, Dewald Pretorius.
Conversions: Jeff Perkins (2).