The Tasol Solar Griffons moved into third place on the Absa Currie Cup First Division log when they picked up a precious win on the road, 39-27 (halftime 23-20) against the SWD Eagles at a near-deserted Outeniqua Park in George on Friday night.
The Northern Free Staters’ second win in nine matches, coupled with their rate of one bonus point per match, moves them to 17 points, two clear of the Eagles but a whopping 19 points adrift of the second-placed Boland Cavaliers.
The Griffons had rampaging eighthman Nicky Steyn and centre Japie Nel to thank for the victory, both men going over for a brace of tries as the visitors outscored their hosts by four tries to three.
The Griffons opened their account in the opening minute when flyhalf Tiaan van Wyk kicked the first of four penalties en route to a personal haul of 16 points.
However, that total might have been far higher, and the Griffons might have won by a far bigger margin had Van Wyk had his kicking boots on, missing a further six kicks at goal to leave another 16 points on the table.
The Eagles gifted the Griffons a bagload of penalties at the breakdown and in the tackle situation, especially in the second half, but were let off the hook time and again to keep the men from George in the game.
Van Wyk’s early penalty was cancelled out from restart when flanker Dumisane Meslane drove over from a lineout maul for fullback Elric van Vuuren to convert.
The home side went 17-3 up after just 15 minutes thanks to a second converted try, to centre Jeff Taljard, as well as a penalty from Van Vuuren.
But the momentum slowly but inexorably changed from that point on, Steyn barging over for the first of his two tries after 18 minutes to reduce the deficit to a converted try.
Van Vuuren added a second penalty for the Eagles but Van Wyk, with two further penalties, and Nel, with his first try of the night, ensured that the visitors went into the halftime break with a lead they would never relinquish.
In fact, the Griffons scored 26 unanswered points between the 23rd and 68th minutes to make it 36-20 with just over 11 minutes to play, Nel and Steyn both grabbing their second scores to give their team another bonus point.
Winger Howard Noble dived over in the corner with eight minutes left to give the Eagles a glimmer of hope at 36-27, but replacement flyhalf Valentine van Wyk, on for the inaccurate Van Wyk, slotted a 77th-minute penalty to firmly shut the door on the home side.
SWD Eagles – Tries: Dumisane Meslane, Jeff Taljard, Howard Noble. Conversions: Elric van Vuuren (3). Penalties: Van Vuuren (2).
Griffons – Tries: Nicky Steyn (2), Japie Nel (2). Conversions: Tiaan van Wyk (2). Penalties: Van Wyk (4), Valentine van Wyk.
The u/21’s lost 27-16