The Leopards clinched the Absa Currie Cup First Division title in style on Thursday evening thanks to a great 44-20 comeback victory over the SWD Eagles in Potchefstroom. They also managed to finish the season unbeaten with 12 wins.
However, it was a game of two halves after the visiting Eagles dominated possession and territory to lead 20-10 at halftime. The home side recaptured their prolific scoring form in the second half to score 24 unanswered points to lift the Cup in impressive fashion.
SWD were quick off the mark and raced onto a 20-3 lead after 24 minutes of play in the opening half. Left wing Alshaun Bock and inside centre Luzuko Vulindlu each ran through for tries after the Leopards struggled to plug the gaps in midfield. Fullback Leighton Eksteen was on target with the two conversions.
He also added to mid-range penalties to send a clear signal to the home side not to concede penalties anywhere near his kicking range.
The Leopards took a while to find their rhythm and centre Adriaan Engelbrecht slotted a penalty after 25 minutes to open their account. The successful effort kicked the Leopards into action and after two minutes of good forward pressure it was hooker Dane Engelbrecht who crashed over for their first try from a driving maul to cut the deficit to 21-10.
Eksteen sent his drop goal attempt to the left on the stroke of halftime, with the visiting Eagles deservedly in the lead after controlling much of the first half.
A different Leopards team took the field for the second half and they stamped their authority on proceedings immediately after the restart. Lock Walt Steenkamp crashed over for a converted try and then the forward mauled menacingly to clinch another try, scored by flank and captain, Juan Language, to put the Leopards in front for the first time.
Two further tries by No 8 Marno Redelinghuys and lock Robert Kruger stretched the lead to 34-20 after 65 minutes and also swung the momentum fully in favour of the home team. Engelbrecht also kicked another penalty.
Replacement prop Bart le Roux added a final try on the sound of the hooter to complete a fantastic win for the Leopards. Skipper Language was deservedly rewarded with the Absa Man of the Match award for leading his team to a great win.
Absa Currie Cup First Division Final
Leopards – Tries: Dane van der Westhuizen; Walt Steenkamp, Juan Language, Marno Redelinghuys, Robert Kruger, Bart le Roux; Conversions: Adriaan Engelbrecht (4); Penalties: Adriaan Engelbrecht (2).
SWD Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Luzuko Vulindlu; Conversions: Leighton Eksteen (2); Penalties: Eksteen (2).