The Down Touch Griffons secured a home semifinal in the Absa Currie Cup First Division despite going down 27-21 (halftime 15-15) against the SWD Eagles at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday evening.
The visitors needed just a single point from the match and they secured that by ending within seven points of the Eagles. But the home side had replacement hooker, Karl Haupt, to thank for his brace of tries in the second half.
The sides swapped ends with the scores level after both sides scored two tries, one conversion and one penalty.
The Eagles opened the scoring as early as the second minute when captain and eighthman Zandre Jordaan crashed over in the corner to hand the hosts a five-point lead. Flyhalf Leighton Eksteen extended the lead to eight points when he slotted a penalty just five minutes later.
The Griffons were on the board after 16 minutes when outside centre Vuyo Mbotho broke the line and scored with right wing Nico Scheepers adding the extra points. But to rub salt into the wound, referee Stephan Geldenhuis sent the Eagles’ outside centre Brian Skosana to the sin bin.
Despite being a man down, it was the hosts who hit back with a try of their own through lock Schalk Oelofse. Eksteen converted to give the men from George a handy eight-point advantage.
The celebrations were short-lived though as the Griffons cut the lead to just three points when flyhalf Coenie van Wyk crossed the whitewash. The visitors would lose another man as the try scorer Van Wyk was sent to the sin bin just two minutes after his try.
Geldenhuis was a busy official with the cards in his pocket and produced the third of the half when he showed a yellow card to the Eagles’ right wing Carlo Radebe shortly before Scheepers levelled the scores with a penalty before halftime.
Haupt replaced Marius Fourie at the break and made his presence felt within 10 minutes of being on the field when he barged his way over the line. Scheepers landed his second penalty of the match to reduce the deficit to four points as both sides rang the changes.
With just 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Van Wyk slotted a drop goal under pressure to bring the visitors to within one point of their hosts but then Geldenhuis was at it again when he produced the fourth yellow card of the evening, sending the Griffons’ fullback, Wynand Pienaar, to the side of the field.
The Griffons could not lift themselves with 14 men and succumbed to the pressure as Haupt rumbled over the tryline on the stroke of the hooter.
The Eagles’ victory sees them end third on the log and a trip up north to face the same opponents in the semifinal.
SWD Eagles – Kurt Haupt (2), Schalk Oelofse, Zandre Jordaan; Conversions: Leighton Eksteen (2); Penalty: Eksteen.
Down Touch Griffon – Tries: Coenie van Wyk, Vuyo Mbotho; Conversion: Nico Scheepers; Penalties: Scheepers (2); Drop-Goal: Van Wyk.