Playing bold, adventurous – sometimes too adventurous – rugby, the Border Bulldogs beat the South Western Districts Eagles 31-24 in an action-packed First Division Currie Cup match at the Buffalo City Stadium in East London on Friday.
The half-time score was 18-17 in the Eagles’ favour.
The visitors scored first and caught the home team napping in virtually the first minute of the game after a lineout when their blindside flanker, Johannes Stander, crashed over for a try after some poor defence work by Border.
The conversion was missed by fullback Thomas Kean, who left his kicking boots back home in George. He failed with a number of kicks but was successful with three penalties.
Within minutes Border hit back when flank Billy Dutton, who had a storming game, barged over for a try alongside the posts and flyhalf Masixole Banda converted to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead.
But then some weak covering by Border allowed Eagles centre Daniel Roberts to score wide of the right side of the posts. Again Kean missed the kick.
An enormous 50-metre kick from exactly the halfway line was kicked over by Banda after an infringement by the Eagles which brought the score to 10-10 and then, when Border were ruled off-side, Kean was successful with an easy penalty from 26 metres out.
In the last five minutes of the half both teams scored tries. Banda crashed over with a number of Eagles players holding on, and he then converted his own try. Soon after Eagles hooker Kurt Haupt went over. Again Kean missed the kick.
Early in the second half the Eagles went on the attack and were camped within Border’s 22m area for a good 10 minutes before the pressure told and the visitors were successful with a penalty dead in front of the posts by Kean to extend their lead to four points.
Another penalty by Kean gave the visitors a seven-point lead which then galvanised Border into action.
They stormed the Eagles line and attacked the visitors’ line relentlessly making good use of their heavy forwards, and then their strong lock Athenkosi Khetani scored under the posts.
The conversion by Banda was a mere formality; and then five minutes later Border, using their forwards again in a concerted push, scored through their flank, Onke Dubase, who broke away and scored a magnificent try running down the right touchline.
Border took the lead for the first time since the seventh minute as Banda converted.
The last few moments of the match were very tense for the Bulldogs. With a vociferous crowd urging them on, they had to defend manfully as the Eagles launched attack after attack, at one stage effecting about nine or 10 phases; but the home team held firm and managed to keep the visitors out to gain a well-deserved victory.
Border Bulldogs – Tries: Billy Dutton, Masixole Banda, Athenkosi Khetani, Onke Dubase. Conversions: Banda (4). Penalty: Banda.
SWD Eagles – Tries: Flank Johannes Stander, Daniel Roberts, Kurt Haupt. Penalties: Fullback Thomas Kean (3).