George - The SWD Eagles moved up to second on the log after securing a 26-21 (half-time 13-11) victory over the Leopards in their provincial tournament clash at Outeniqua Park in George on Wednesday.
According to the supersport.com website, despite being down to 14 men for most of the second half, the Leopards strung together more than 25 phases after the hooter had sounded in trying to score a try that could have potentially snatched victory from the jaws of defeat but the men from George held on for their third victory from four starts.
Both sides struggled with their handling throughout the game with many turn-overs and missed opportunities coming from knock-ons but both sides settled with two tries each while the boot of flyhalf Hansie Graaf proved the difference as the Eagles pivot slotted two conversions and four penalties.
The Eagles were the first to suffer a yellow card when loosehead prop Juandre Digue tipped Lucian Cupido in a tackle just before the half-time break. The Leopards used the opportunity to drive the ball into the corner and scored a try through Wilmar Arnoldi with the hooker bursting through the maul to score for an unconverted effort as the sides entered the changeroom with the hosts leading by two points.
Rhyno Smith had given the visitors an early lead as the fullback slotted two penalties in the first 15 minutes but the hosts hit back immediately with their first try when Carlo Radebe received the ball on the right, straightened the line and scored with an outstretched arm after the Eagles had turned the ball over straight from the restart.
Graaff then extended the lead to seven points with his first two penalties before Digue was sent to the bin but the lead was shaved to two points with Arnoldi dotting down shortly before the half-time whistle.
The Eagles began the second stanza with fire in the belly, despite being a man down and secured 93% of the possession in the first 10 minutes after the break which resulted in Graaff adding another two penalty goals to his name but their eight-point advantage was cut down to just a single point as inside centre Adrian Vermeulen dived over the line for a converted try after good pressure from the forwards created space out wide.
But again, the Leopards went to sleep after the kick-off as the Eagles pressed and replacement hooker, Mark Pretorius, darted through the middle of the defence and moved the ball left to Riaan Arends who was brought down before the line. The ball was recycled and scrumhalf Johan Steyn broke through and dived under the poles for a seven-pointer.
Arnoldi was then referred to the TMO after the try was scored and was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. But just nine minutes after his return, the visitors suffered another blow as replacement prop forward, Ruan Grobbelaar was also shown his marching orders for kicking a player in the back off the ball.
The Leopards pressed hard in the closing stages and were awarded a penalty shortly before the hooter, which Smith converted to leave the visitors five points off their hosts. But Graaff failed to kick the ball out on the restart and the Leopards moved the ball up the field through 25-plus phases in search of an unlikely victory but again it was poor hands at the final stage that let them down.
Tries: Carlo Radebe, Johan Steyn
Conversions: Hansie Graaff (2)
Penalties: Graaf (4)
Tries: Wilmar Arnoldi, Adrian Vermeulen
Conversions: Rhyno Smith
Penalties: Smith (3)