Cape Town - The Leopards upset the form book as they recorded a 37-17 (halftime 22-3) win over the Griquas (halftime 22-3) in their provincial tournament match at Profert Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Friday.
The hosts were full value for their win as they ran in five tries to two after a dominating first-half which saw them open up a 19-point lead after 40 minutes.
The Griquas had already qualified for the Currie Cup Premier Division after an impressive record of 11 wins from their 13 games while the Leopards had missed out on a Currie Cup place after winning just five of their 13 matches.
The Griquas, after securing qualification, made 10 changes to their starting line-up, and the Leopards made all the early running in the contest before the Griquas took the lead, against the run of play, thanks to a long-range penalty from flyhalf Steven Moir in the 12th minute.
But the Leopards’ finally made their territorial dominance count and the sweeping backline move saw left wing Bradley Moolman spring over from 22 metres out as the hosts took a 5-3 lead after 15 minutes.
The Leopards were in control of the contest but they were being let down by some poor handling, they had eight in the first half, but they added to their score after hooker Wilmar Arnoldi snaffled an overthrown lineout throw from the Griquas before loosehead prop Bart Le Roux barged his way over from close range for a converted try in the 26th minute.
Fullback Rhyno Smith added to the lead with a penalty before the Leopards ended the half in fine style after a good team move saw Arnoldi take a pass from Moolman to crash over from 10 metres out.
Smith slotted his conversion attempt as the hosts went to the break holding an impressive 22-3 lead.
The second-half did not start well for the Griquas when flank Stephen Vermeulen was yellow-carded, in the 48th minute, for shoulder charging into two rucks in succession but the Leopards failed to take advantage of their numerical advantage.
However, the hosts finally added to their lead when Smith slotted a 66th minute penalty.
The Griquas scored their first try, a minute later, when replacement loose forward Jason Fraser ripped the ball from a Leopards’ player before flopping over the tryline for a converted score.
But the Leopards were not to be denied and the hard-running inside centre Henko Marais scored the bonus-point try when he burst through to score with eight minutes left in the match.
There was just time for Fraser to grab his second try of the match with less than a minute left to play but it was nothing more than a consolation score for the visitors as outside centre Johan Deysel scored a try from a quick tap penalty to end the contest.
Leopards – Tries: Bradley Moolman, Bart le Roux, Wilmar Arnoldi, Henko Marais, Johan Deysel; Conversions: Rhyno Smith (3); Penalties: Smith (2).
Griquas – Try: Jason Fraser (2); Conversions: Andre Swarts (2); Penalty: Steven Moir.