Cape Town - The Free State XV came from behind to secure a 24-16 (halftime 11-13) Provincial tournament victory over the South Western Districts Eagles at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday evening.
Both sides started the match with vigour that turned into over-eagerness as both flyhalves traded penalties with Hansie Graaff opening the scoring for the home side before the Free State captain, Sias Ebersohn, landed two of his own.
Eagles scrumhalf Johan Steyn then darted well to score the first try of the match, which Graaff converted to give the hosts a four-point advantage. But the try-scoring hero then turned villain as he was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes by referee Lesego Logoete shortly before the halftime hooter.
The visitors used their numerical advantage immediately with flanker Tienie Burger rumbling over in the corner from the resulting penalty to bring Free State within two points of their hosts as Ebersohn was unable to convert.
The visitors were also reduced to 14 men shortly after Steyn returned to the field with Legoete showing Free State lock Justin Basson a yellow card eight minutes into the second stanza. But that did not deter the men from Bloemfontein as right wing Mosolwa Mafuma raced down the line to score a good try which Ebersohn converted to hand Free State a five-point lead.
Ebersohn extended the lead to eight points a minute later but Graaff cancelled out his opposites' effort midway through the second half. That was all the home side could muster as Ebersohn landed his fourth penalty attempt with nine minutes left on the stadium clock to close out the game.
The win moves Free State up one place, to fifth, above the Xerox Golden Lions and just two points adrift of the Steval Pumas while the Eagles are languishing in 10th place, 13 points behind Free State. Both sides are in action next Saturday when the Eagles travel to Roodepoort to take on the Golden Lions while the Free Staters host the Boland Cavaliers in Bloemfontein.
SWD Eagles - Tries: Johan Steyn; Conversions: Hansie Graaff; Penalties: Graaff (3)
Toyota Free State XV - Tries: Tienie Burger, Mosolwa Mafuma; Conversions: Sias Ebersohn; Penalties: Ebersohn (4)