Hino Valke wing Coert Cronje scored a valuable try five minutes from time to beat a determined and desperate SWD Eagles 22-17 (halftime 10-5) in the Currie Cup qualifier at the Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park, on Saturday.
The SWD, having lost their first two matches, needed a victory, and for much of the second half it looked as if they might get it, leading 17-10 with three tries, mostly against the run of play. But they ran out of steam and the Valke stepped up. They too, needed to bounce back after losing their first match, 7-53, to the Leopards.
It was a scrappy start to the match, characterised by tough and rugged defence by the Eagles and a plethora of penalties. At halftime the count was 10-4 in favour of the Valke, mostly from the scrums.
When the Eagles did break into Valke territory, it was from broken play, and one interception ended with Alshaun Bock being bundled out into touch 2m from the line.
The breakthrough came when Eagles scrumhalf Leighton Eksteen was yellow-carded. First fullback Juan Kotze put over a penalty and shortly afterwards he put through a brilliant close-range grubber for No 8 Friedle Oliver to score. The conversion gave the Valke a 10-0 lead 30 minutes into the game.
The Eagles responded well,and hooker Wayne Khan drove off a ruck to touch on the line. The halftime whistle blew at 10-5 with the Eagles having had only 26 per cent territory and making 59 tackles.
The visitors came out fighting in the second half and were rewarded almost immediately when a great break by the energetic Eksteen took play deep into Valke territory. Then flanker Christo du Plessis ran a superb line to scythe through a bewildered Valke defence. The conversion by Elric van Vuuren gave the Eagles the lead at 12-10 seven minutes into the half.
Five minutes later, the Eagles set up a solid driving maul, from which Eksteen went blind and fed flyhalf Gerrit Smith for an easy touchdown which stunned the Valke faithful.
The hosts were not short of attacking opportunities, thanks mainly to the Eagles giving away more penalties, which saw replacement flank Andisa Ntsila yellow-carded. Three times they went for a driving maul off the lineout, and three times they were rebuffed by rugged defence.
Eventually the pressure told and from another lineout Johan Pretorius made a neat break to put No 10 Jaco Oosthuizen through and draw the scores level. As the Eagles faded, the Valke launched a fine line movement which ended with wing Cronje crossing in the corner.
Hino Valke – Tries: Friedl Olivier, Jaco Oosthuizen, Coert Cronje Conversions: Juan Kotze (2).Penalty Kotze
SWD Eagles – Tries: Wayne Khan. Christo du Plessis, Gerrit Smith. Conversion: Elric van Vuuren.