East London - On a hot, sultry afternoon the Border Bulldogs beat the Tusker Simba XV from Kenya 18-17 in a nail-biting Vodacom Cup match played in front of a small yet enthusiastic crowd of supporters at the Buffalo City stadium, East London.
Border vice-captain Jeffrey Taljard was the hero for the home team, scoring 13 of the 18 points, although he did miss three kicks at goal which failed to go over – a conversion and two penalties.
The halftime score was 7-7.
The huge Kenyan eight gave the smaller Border pack a torrid throughout, and referee Stephan Geldenhuys, who handled the game with authority, had to give the Kenyan front row a lecture or two.
But the game was played fast and furiously on a day with exceptionally hot Berg wind conditions.
The visitors were first to score in the fourth minute when their strong centre, Fabian Orlando, broke within his own quarter quite against the run of play and ran 75 metres to score alongside the post for flyhalf Kenny Andula to add the two points.
Border squandered a number of chances and once their nippy scrumhalf, Mario Noordman, who had an excellent attacking game, broke and with the line at his mercy, threw out a forward pass, amid a huge groan from the home team supporters.
Then centres Ruan Jacobs and Taljard combined to take play to about three metres from the Kenyan’s line and from the resultant melee, Noordman threw out a pass to Taljard who darted through to dot down and then convert his own try.
The visitors started the second half well. Their tough right wing, Leonard Mugaisi, who was keen to run at every opportunity, simply put his head down and despite a couple of tackles, scored to the right of the posts for Andula to convert and make the score 14-7 in favour of the Simba XV.
Then the Kenyans were penalised for holding on and Taljard made no mistake with the penalty from about 25 metres out virtually in front of the posts, but five minutes later Andula was on target with his first penalty.
Taljard replied with another penalty shortly afterward and at 13-17 and with just over 20 minutes left on the clock, an exciting finish loomed, with Border looking to be the stronger side in the heat.
And so it proved. Left wing Makazole Mapimpi took a pass from Taljard and dived over for a brilliant try after Noordman threw the ball wide to the right, but Taljard missed a difficult conversion.
With 15 minutes to go, the Kenyans, now one point adrift, threw everything into attack but the Border defence held firm, and when the ball squirted out to touch after 41 minutes, there was a huge yell from an excited crowd who enjoyed one of the few Border victories in recent seasons.
Border Bulldogs: Tries: Centre Jeffrey Taljard, wing Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Taljard. Penalties: Taljard (2).
Tusker Simba XV: Centre Fabian Olando, right wing Leonard Mugaisi. Conversions: Kenny Andula (2): Penalty: Andula.