The South Western District Eagles overturned a halftime deficit to defeat the Valke 38-37 (halftime 10-25), with the Eagles outscoring their hosts by six tries to five, in an Absa Currie Cup First Division match at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park on Friday.
The Eagles looked dead and buried when Coert Cronje sauntered through their defence from his own 22-metre area for a converted try that put the Valke into a 32-10 lead three minutes into the second half.
The hat-trick of tries scored by inside centre Willie Odendal of the Valke in the first half was overshadowed by the hat-trick from the former sevens player Alshaun Bock, whose third try lead to the victory.
The Valke dominated possession and territory throughout the match and enjoyed a ten minute period with an extra man after the Eagles’ outside centre, Ghafoer Luckan, had been sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements.
But it was the Eagles who made this period count as Christo du Plessis went over close to the posts, which Jeff Taljard converted to bring the men from George to within eight points.
A frenetic final 15 minutes saw the Valke fade. The Eagles pounced when Bock raced down the left wing to score his second try after the Valke knocked the ball on and the ball was swung down the backline at pace.
The converted try closed the gap to one point but then the Valke struck back with five minutes remaining through Shane Kirkwood, who rumbled over from five metres out. The conversion was missed by the replacement flyhalf, Wesley Roberts, which left the door open for the visitors.
The Eagles never gave up and made their way up the field. The Valke gave away a free-kick and then a penalty, both of which were taken quickly, which resulted in Bock going over for his third try close to the poles. Taljard converted on the stroke of fulltime to give the visitors their second away victory of the season.
The Valke seemed to have the match in control at halftime, after Odendal scored his three tries to hand the home side a handy 25-10 lead. The Valke dominated terrirtory and possession, while the Eagles struggled with handling errors and lost lineout ball.
The Eagles took an early lead with a try by Martin du Toit, who broke down the middle of the field to score out wide.
But the Valke took the game by the scruff of the neck after Jaun Kotze knocked over a penalty and a drop-goal to hand the lead to the hosts. Kotze missed an early penalty, a drop-goal attempt as well as conversion, which counted against his side in the end.
The home side, who have yet to win a game this season, will feel gutted at having let slip the lead they had, but all credit to the men from George, who never gave up, even when they were down to 10 men.
Scorers Valke – Tries: Willie Odendal (3), Coert Cronje, Shane Kirkwood; Conversions: Jaun Kotze (3); Drop-goal: Kotze
Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock (3), Martin du Toit, Justin van Staden, Christo du Plessis; Conversions: Jeff Taljard (3), Justin van Staden