Pu­mas can’t an­swer Gri­quas’fight­back

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT -

NELSPRUIT: The Pu­mas squan­dered a golden op­por­tu­nity to stay alive in the Cur­rie Cup semi-fi­nal race, slump­ing to a nar­row 38-35 de­feat by Gri­quas in a 10-try thriller at a soggy Mbombela Sta­dium yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

The Mpumalanga side watched their play­off hopes all but evap­o­rate as they failed to stave off a de­ter­mined four-try sec­ond half come­back by the bot­tom-of-the-ta­ble vis­i­tors.

But the hosts only had them­selves to blame for a sloppy sec­ond half per­for­mance, as the Kim­ber­ley side over­turned a 28-10 half­time deficit, to steal the match with a con­verted Ter­tius Kruger try five min­utes from the fi­nal hooter.

A lone penalty by the Di­a­mond min­ers’ fly­half Ge­orge White­head in the first half even­tu­ally separ- ated the two sides, as they also har­vested a bonus point to lift them­selves off the foot of the ta­ble.

The hosts looked well in con­trol and had se­cured a bonus point by the 28th minute as they raced into a seem­ingly com­fort­able lead, but within six min­utes of the restart, the Kim­ber­ley side had al­ready re­bounded to within four points.

The home side scored four well-ex­e­cuted, unan­swered tries via eighth­man Wil­lie En­gel­brecht (2), Marko Janse van Rens­burg – from a clas­sic driv­ing maul fol­low­ing a two-handed li­ne­out take by En­gel­brecht – and cen­tre Hen­nie Sko­rbin­ski, who gath­ered a well-weighted kick in­side his own half from scrumhalf Ste­fan Un­gerer and showed a clean pair of heels in a dash for the line.

As soon as Gri­quas found their rhythm for the first time five min­utes out from the changeover, they man­aged to rum­ble their way in phases to­wards the op­pos­ing try­line and flanker Wen­del Wehr bar­relled over.

As quickly as the Pu­mas had got on the score­board in the first pe­riod, so Gri­quas did in the sec­ond, as Man of the Match Ter­tius Kruger scored to nar­row the gap from 18 points to 11. Within just three min­utes of the restart, the deficit had shrunk to just four as speedy winger Kyle Steyn scored an in­ter­cept try from his own half, leav­ing the over-com­mit­ted Pu­mas for dead.

The uneasy Pu­mas man­aged to edge back into a nine point lead when substitute Frankie Herne bull­dozed over the line fol­low­ing an ef­fec­tive rolling maul from li­ne­out pos­ses­sion.

Un­fazed, Gri­quas kept their com­po­sure and shape and were back within four points with a su­perb fin­ish out wide by winger Ederies Arendse after full­back AJ Co­ertzen had col­lected from a well-placed clear­ance and set Arendse away.

Gri­quas seized the lead for the first time in the match via the late Kruger try as substitute fly­half An­dre Swarts, who re­placed White­head last in the match, added the con­ver­sion.

White­head, who landed the cru­cial first half penalty, ar­rived with his kick­ing boots on and con­verted four of his team’s five tries, with his op­po­site num­ber Kobus Marais also find­ing his radar with five con­ver­sions. The Nelspruit-based out­fit wrap up their league cam­paign next Satur­day against the Blue Bulls in Pre­to­ria. – ANA

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