No cigar for improved Pukke
Aubrey McDonald (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Not even a vastly improved performance by the North West University (Pukke) was enough to stave off defeat at the hands of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in Monday night's Varsity Cup match at the UJ Stadium.
Despite the men from Potchefstroom scoring two tries they still went down 20-16, with all but five of UJ's points coming via the boot of flyhalf Theuns Kotze.
As expected, the opening exchanges between the sides were as intense as they always are with great tackling the only reason it remained scoreless for the first 10 minutes.
Showing almost none of the same traits that were on display last week, Pukke played a more patient game and were eventually rewarded in the 13th minute when fullback Willem Barnard went over in the corner for an unconverted try.
The hosts were quick to respond with a penalty (5-3.
As far as the territorial stakes were concerned, Pukke made sure they played most of the first-half as far from their own try line as possible.
The Pukke scrum was also back to its intimidating standards of old while their work at the line-outs brought back memories of the side that was one of the front runners last year.
When the hosts managed turn over possession, they impressed in the first few phases, but could not complete their pre-planned moves.
It always looked like UJ would have to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat to score and they did exactly that when a well placed high kick was claimed by centre Luan Steenkamp, flicking the pass wide for Aubrey McDonald, to finish in the corner.
The conversion failed, which meant the scores were level at eight a piece with less than 10 minutes left in the half.
The stage was set for a dramatic finish.
Against the run of play, the hosts were awarded a penalty, which Kotze converted, which did wonders for their confidence.
All of a sudden the home side's carriers attacked the advantage line with aggression while Kotze and fullback Earl Lewis did their best to exploit open space with their kicking game.
Kotze extended his team's lead to nine points as a result of the increased accuracy with which his team were attacking.
Any thoughts of complacency were, however, erased when three minutes later when Pukke flank Phillip de Wet charged over for his team's second try of the evening. Unfortunately Dumond's conversion hit the upright.
UJ 20(8): Try Aubrey McDonald. Penalties Theuns Kotze (5)
NWU-Pukke 16(8): Try Willem Barnard, Phillip de Wet. Penalty, Cecil Dumond (2)