The South Western Districts Eagles stormed back to clinch a thrilling 40-37 (halftime 7-27) victory over the Down Touch Griffons in an Absa Currie Cup Qualifier match at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday.
Colin Herbet replaced the injured Griffons flyhalf, Franna du Toit in the 25th minute and missed two vital conversions in the second half that made the difference between five log points and just the two they received on the night.
The visitors, who had clinched their opening match against Boland by just two points, conceded a converted try as early as the second minute when right wing, Luzuko Vulundli touched down. Du Toit opened the visitors account through a 6th minute penalty before the Griffons took total control.
The home side were unable to contain their visitors as the Griffons ran in three first-half tries courtesy of centre, Vuyo Mboto, eighth-man Erik le Roux and hooker Elandre Hugget while Herbert slotted a penalty five minutes before the break for a commanding 20-point cushion.
The second stanza began where the first left off as the Griffons’ left-winger, Norman Nelson dotted down in the corner for an unconverted try to extend the visitors lead to 25 points.
But the home side then made some changes to the forwards with Grant Kemp and Kurt Haupt replacing Ashley Buys and Wayne Kahn in the front row while Peet van der Walt replaced Marchal Groenewald on the side of the scrum.
Within minutes the home side came storming back with two tries through Junior Bester and replacement hooker, Haupt. Both efforts were converted by Karl Aspeling, to reduce the deficit to just 11 points.
Mboto’s centre partner and captain, Japie Nel then broke the George fans by crashing over the line for an unconverted try but the Eagles were not to be written off.
The hosts scored three more tries in a 10-minute spell through Shaun Raubenheimer, winger Alshaun Bock and replacement scrumhalf, Dwayne Kelly and then hung on for all their worth in the final 10 minutes to secure a full-house of five log points to kick-start their premiership aspirations.
Despite the loss, the Griffons move up one place into second position with six points while the Eagles climb three places into third, just one point behind the Griffons.
The Leopards top the qualifying log with a full-house of 10 points from their opening two matches.
SWD EAGLES – Tries: Luzuko Vulundli, Junior Bester, Kurt Haupt, Shaun Raubenheimer, Alshaun Bock, Dwayne Kelly; Conversions: Karlo Aspeling (5).
DOWN TOUCH GRIFFONS – Tries: Vuyo Mboto, Erik le Roux, Elandre Hugget, Norman Nelson, Japie Nel; Conversions: Franna du Toit, Colin Herbert (2); Penalties Du Toit, Herbert.