Nelspruit - A late try from JP Lewis gave Western Province a hard-fought 27-20 (halftime 17-13) victory over the Pumas in their Provincial tournament clash at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday evening.
The sides were locked at 20-20 with with just three minutes left on the clock but a well-worked turn-over resulted in right-wing Lewis breaking down the left-hand touchline to run around and score under the poles to hand the men from Cape Town a hard-fought victory.
Province, who were under the cosh for most of the second half, soaked up the pressure well and used one of the very few opportunities in the second stanza to steal the victory as Lewis dotted down twice accompanied by five penalties and a conversion from the former EP Kings flyhalf, Scott van Breda.
Van Breda had given the visitors a handy lead in the first half with three early penalties as flanker Marnus Schoeman was consistently penalised by referee Marius van der Westhuizen for not rolling away at ruck time. His opposite number, Justin van Staden, failed to open the Pumas account after 16 minutes with a missed penalty but made up for his error three minutes later with his first penalty after Province were pinged for illegal scrumming.
Worse was to follow for the home side who had loosehead prop, Dee-Jay Terblanche sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for not rolling away, as Van der Westhuizen had given the Pumas a team warning. Van Breda slotted the resulting penalty to restore their nine-point advantage but being down to 14 men ignited something in the home side.
A wonderfully-worked move off the back of a scrum, along with a dummy run from inside centre Hennie Skorbinski, allowed left-wing Marcello Sampson to burst through the middle and score the first try of the match. Van Staden converted the try and then slotted his second penalty to hand the lead to the Pumas for the first time in the match.
Lewis then produced some individual brilliance after receiving the ball down the left-hand touchline, beating four defenders with some excellent stepping and swerving to dive over the line for his first try. Van Breda pushed his easy conversion attempt to the right of the uprights to bring the first half to a close with the visitors four points clear.
But the Pumas came out firing on all cylinders in the second stanza and it took the home team just two minutes to regain the lead with what must be one of the team tries of the season. The Pumas moved the ball through almost every single set of hands, showing brilliant handling, pick-ups and offloads to score under the poles through replacement flank, Carel Greeff. Van Standen added the two points to give the home side a slender three-point advantage.
Van Breda added his fifth penalty of the night, to level matters on 50 minutes to setup a tense final 30 minutes. The Pumas missed a golden chance to regain the lead midway through the second half when WP were penalised for being offside at a ruck. But scrumhalf Reynier van Rooyen decided to take a quick-tap penalty, and after a number of surges to the line, the home side knocked the ball on and a chance went a begging.
The Pumas continued to swarm all over Province with forward domination and clinical line-breaks but the final execution let the home side down and this proved to be their downfall as Province turned the ball over on the halfway line with a few minutes left on the clock. The ball was moved to the left and the overlap created the space for Lewis to dart down the touchline and score the winning points.
Van Breda had a chance on the stroke of fulltime to deny the Pumas a bonus point but pushed his penalty attempt wide of the mark.
Pumas - Tries: Marcello Sampson, Carel Greeff; Conversions: Justin van Staden (2); Penalties: Van Staden (2).
Western Province - Tries: JP Lewis (2); Conversions: Scott van Breda; Penalties: Van Breda (5).