Thrilling wins for Maties, NMMU
Gareth Light (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - There were three away wins in Round Two of the 2012 Varsity Cup - with two dramatic victories coming in the final seconds of regulation time in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein.
In easily the biggest upset in the five-year history of this tournament, the NMMU Madibaz beat Shimlas thanks to a last-second André Goosen try in Bloemfontein, as the visitors scored two tries in the final three minutes to pull off an unlikely victory.
The Shimlas, who led 18-5 at half-time, would have been very confident heading into this Round Two encounter against a team they had never lost against before and after their first-round triumph over UCT last week.
But the Madibaz showed great spirit and resolve throughout and when replacement Bradley Kretzman slotted the winning conversion from the right-hand touchline - the new points-scoring system no doubt playing into NMMU's hands here! - the men from Port Elizabeth pulled off easily the greatest Houdini act in the history of this tournament with their 29-27 win.
Speaking of Houdini acts, former three-time champions, the Maties, pulled off something of a miracle victory themselves when they also won away courtesy of a late try - against the NWU-Pukke in Potchefstroom.
With the Maties trailing by 9-12, as they did for the entire second half, replacement hooker Gareth Light rumbled over from a powerful rolling maul in the 80th minute to put his team ahead by 14-12, the first time they led in the match.
Although the try was not converted, Pukke's re-start coincided with the full-time hooter and the home side - who had scored the game's opening try in the first half through right-wing Andrew van Wyk - had to be content with a losing bonus point.
Defending champions UCT, who suffered a 15-29 away defeat to UJ, were unable to register their first log points of the season - going down by four tries to two at the University of Johannesburg's home ground.
UJ led 29-2 at half-time, so UCT did win the second half by 13-0, but it will be scant consolation to Kevin Foote and his coaching team who will return to Cape Town knowing they have a mountain to climb in their remaining five league fixtures.
Meanwhile, in other Round Two action, in the day's first game, visitors UP-Tuks won their Pretoria Derby against TUT by 40-0 - scoring five tries to nil, including a penalty try on the stroke of full-time.
Tuks led 8-0 at half-time and scored their four second-half tries in the final thirty minutes against a Vikings side that showed more resistance than the scoreboard would suggest. It was, however, a case of sweet revenge for Tuks who lost at home to TUT in Round Two action last season.*
In Varsity Shield action, UWC put on an impressive display in their first home game of the season, completely demolishing UKZN by 61-10 in Bellville. In Bloemfontein, defending champions CUT scored a late bonus-point try to secure a solid 34-15 win over a game Fort Hare outfit.
In Varsity Young Guns action, Tuks' Under-20s showed no mercy to their TUT counterparts and handed their Pretoria rivals a 130-0 thrashing to make their bid for silverware clear this season. The day's other match saw Maties' juniors claim a dramatic 23-20 win over their hosts, NWU-Pukke (was it a sign of things to come, perhaps?), in their meeting in Potchefstroom.*
The first round of 2012 Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships action also took place on Monday, with a 26-24 victory for Bastion (UJ) over the Cobras (UCT). Mopanie (Tuks) beat Monitor (TUT) by 42-8 in the other fixture on Monday - completing a disappointing day for the men from Tshwane, which saw them concede over 200 points across three competitions.