The Border Bulldogs fought valiantly in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match against the Boland Cavaliers before going down 36-15 (halftime 22-5) at East London's Buffalo City Stadium on Friday night.
The Bulldogs got off to the worst possible start and within five minutes were down 12-0 from a converted try to Cavaliers fullback Willie le Roux and left wing Brendon April, although the latter's came following a knock-on.
A try following a lineout to hooker Ashton Constant in the 14th minute again had the Bulldogs asking questions of themselves. Their defence was tested time and again by the visitors, who were also only too willing to run straight and hard.
Still, the Border centre pair of captain Luvuyo Mhlobiso and Chumani Booi had their their moments and by the 20th minute the Bulldogs looked to have settled. Their pack was scrumming well, although Mhlobiso was forced to leave the field with an ankle injury.
The Bulldogs' best moment came on the half hour when they managed to force a series of penalties near the Boland tryline. Time and again they attacked until finally, lock Samora Fihlani took an inside flip pass to power over for an unconverted try.
Renewed with confidence, the Bulldogs frantically took the game to their opponents, only for the Bolanders to break free, resulting in a try to right wing Danwel Delmas against the run of play and a 22-5 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs were first to strike after the break when flyhalf Ntabeni Dukisa knifed over and converted. Shortly afterwards, a stunning run by wing Byron McGuigan ended in a penalty which Dukisa converted and now the game was on at 22-15.
Giving as good as they got and with 25 minutes remaining, the Bulldogs carried the game to their opponents, with props Armon Fourie and Byron Schmidt, eighthman Lubabalo Mzwakali and lock Tonga prominent among the pack.
But the visitors found breathing space when April collected a loose ball at a ruck to speed in from 45 metres for Watts to convert (29-15).
The Bulldogs, enjoying a lot of possession, suffered a blow when replacement scrumhalf Sinovuyo Nyoka was yellow-carded with 14 minutes remaining for holding a player back while replacement Boland lock Cornal Hendricks suffered the same fate five minutes later.
Boland finally sealed matters late in the match when centre PJ Vermeulen scored a converted try.
Border 15 – Tries: Samora Fihlani, Ntabeni Dukisa. Conversion: Dukisa. Penalty: Dukisa.
Boland 36 – Tries: Willie le Roux, Brendon April (2), Ashton Constant, Danwell Delmas, PJ Vermeulen. Conversions: Elgar Watts (3).