Captain Luke Watson scored three of his team’s seven tries as Western Province easily disposed of a hapless Leopards team, winning 48-7 at Newlands on Friday to keep their Currie Cup campaign on track.
The win saw Province move into the top three on the standings – behind the unbeaten Griquas team and second-placed Blue Bulls – just shading the Sharks on points difference.
It was cold at Newlands and a small crowd of under 10 000 hoped that their beloved Western Province would warm them up. It took a long time for that to happen.
Willem de Waal of Western Province kicked off to start the match and then the kicking really started. It went on and tediously on, both sides doing it to little profit, just back and forth, seldom even out. The visiting Leopard had the first five throw-ins to line-outs and lost three of them, while Anton van Zyl ruled the line-outs. There were seven scrums in the half. Western Province put the ball into a scrum for the first time after 35 minutes.
There were 13 penalties in the match, split 11-2 in favour of Western Province who were not penalised even once in the second half. But the first penalty was in favour of the Leopards. Flyhalf Clayton Durand took ages about the kick and missed, This all seemed an omen of the future of the game – a match of bad kicking.
Then suddenly Joe Petersen fielded a long kicked and passed to Gio Aplon and the game was shocked into life. Off he raced and Western Province were heading for the corner on their left when Conrad Hoffman was tackled out. The Leopards tried to clear from the five-metre line-out but Michael Bondesio’s kick was charged and went back into touch, The Leopards overthrew the line-out and Western Province bashed and bashed till they lost the ball. But soon afterwards the Leopards were penalised at a tackle, the first penalty they conceded and Willem de Waal sent the kick soaring between the uprights. 3-0.
But Western Province wanted tries and after they kicked the ball out for a five-metre. Van Zyl caught the ball and the forwards formed a tight maul and drove it through the Leopards for the first of Luke Watson’s tries. 8-0 after 22 minutes.
Promising Juan de Jongh broke but then the Leopards went on the attack till flank Wilhelm Koch chipped, almost fatally into the Western Province 22. Aplon was under pressure and he could easily have marked. Instead he slipped out, eel-like, and swept some 60 metres down the field.
From a scrum on the Western Province right De Waal was going left with Peter Grant and Tendai Chavhanga in close attention. The Leopards laid off De Waal with the more obvious runners looming and suddenly De Waal broke clean through and ran some 30 metres to score near the posts. 15-0. After a run by Chavhanga and a forced break by Grant that was the half-time score.
The start to the second half was so different as both sides ran and ran. The game loosened up and the cold clients – not even Basil Bey was there – had something to warm them.
Burly hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, fast becoming a hot favourite at Newlands and quite possibly the second best hooker in the land, went racing down the right touchline. Challenged he chipped with great skill and raced after the ball. The Leopards could not contain the ball and Petersen swept it up to score. 20-0 after 46 minutes.
Now Western Province forgot about scoring penalty points and kicked for attacking line-outs. One was about 18 metres out but nonetheless they mauled and rushed it at the Leopards’ line where Watson fell down with the ball for a try. 27-0 after 52 minutes. That was the fourth try and that meant a bonus point.
The Leopards had an attacking moment when Bondesio threaded a low kick into the Western Province in-goal but Grant just beat him to the ball.
Back came Western Province, bashing at the line till Pieter Louw, just on the field, scored. 34-0 after 62 minutes.
By now Western Province had emptied the bench. Morgan Newland came on for Grant and not long afterwards kicked a poor kick down the middle of the field which at its very best would have been meaningless. The Leopards counterattacked sharply down the right from within their own half and Deon van Rensburg dived over in the corner. It was a splendid try. Durand converted from touch. 34-7.
Watson fell down for his third try, Newman broke well and then came a magic moment as Western Province went right from a scrum – 8-9-11. Aplon was 11, over from the left, and he scythed through for a breathtaking try. De Waal converted. 48-7.
One of the most obvious virtues of the Western Province game was the maul, tight, compact and relentless. It has an unstoppable feel about it. In fact the whole Western Province tight five’s play is unrecognisable from the rickety mess of the last few years.
Man of the Match: Of course Tiaan Liebenberg. Willem de Waal, Joe Pietersen and Luke Watson are candidates but for sheer delight our Man of the Match is electric, delightful Gio Aplon.
For Western Province:
Tries: Aplon, De Waal, Louw, Pietersen, Watson 3
Cons: De Waal 5
Pen: De Waal
For the Leopards:
Try: Van Rensburg
Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Juan De Jongh, 12 Peter Grant, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Willem De Waal, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Luke Watson (captain), 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Anton Van Zyl, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller,
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Morgan Newman, 22 Frikkie Welsh
Leopards: 15 Jean Tiedt, 14 Jovan Bowles, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Berndt Theissinger, 11 Jan van Zyl, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 RW Kember, 7 Wilhelm Koch (captain), 6 Bennie Adams, 5 Anthonie Gronum, 4 Rynard Landman, 3 Philip Lemmer, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 Nardus Lombard.
Replacements: 16 Pellow van der Westhuizen, 17 Os van der Walt, 18 Rudi
Mathee, 19 Thabo Mamojele, 20 Theo van Wyk, 21 Basil de Doncker, 22 Bom Samaai.
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistant referees: Phillip Bosch, Mtheleni Msileni