Kempton Park - An 80th-minute try by replacement scrumhalf Anrich Richter clinched a 31-28 victory for the Falcons over the Leopards in an exciting Vodacom Cup match at the Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park on Friday.
With the Falcons trailing 28-26 in the last minute, the home forwards produced one last mighty effort and drove powerfully to within a couple of metres of the Leopards' line. From the resulting ruck, a breakdown in the North-West defence presented the try on a plate for Richter, who wasted no time in snatching the match-winning points.
Flyhalf Juan Kotze missed the conversion, but it didn't matter as replacement flyhalf Wilco de Wet had missed a potentially crucial penalty a few minutes earlier for the Leopards, after Springbok Andre Pretorius had limped off with an injury.
The Leopards had also lost concentration shortly before half-time when, after easing into a 14-7 lead after 32 minutes, they allowed flank Bradley Fortuin to score after the hooter and lift the Falcons to 12-14 at the break.
Despite the teams sharing nine tries, there was nothing lamb-to-the-slaughter about the defending nor the tight exchanges, with Leopards hooker BW van Dyk and Falcons prop Zane Kilian being yellow-carded shortly after half-time as they allowed their emotions to overflow.
The Falcons dominated the early exchanges, but both fullback Arno Poley and Kotze failed with early penalty attempts in the first 15 minutes. The home side did get the first points on the board, however, in the 22nd minute, when flank Marco Kotze crossed for the opening try, which the flyhalf Kotze converted (7-0). The Falcons' wall of defence lapsed soon afterwards, allowing Leopards centre Adriaan Engelbrecht to score the visitors' first try. That was followed by a top-class try by wing Berty Visser, who rounded off a backline move with a powerful run. Pretorius, who had just missed a penalty, kicked his second conversion to put the Leopards 14-7 up.
The Falcons loose forwards all had busy games, but Fortuin was the star performer and he scored in first-half injury time to put the Falcons back within two points.
It took a while for both teams to settle after a fiery start to the second half, but Falcons wing Kyle Hendricks then scored in the 50th minute, with Juan Kotze adding the extra two points (19-14).
But the Falcons once again lost their concentration and the Leopards' response was immediate as Engelbrecht, their most incisive player, cut through for his second try. Pretorius's conversion gave the North-West team a two-point lead.
Despite Falcons wing Sinovuyo Ganto scoring a fine try, converted by Juan Kotze (26-21), the Leopards must have thought they had done enough for the win after Engelbrecht completed his hat-trick and Pretorius kicked his fourth conversion.
But it was Richter and the Falcons who had the last say.Scorers:
Tries: Marco Kotze, Bradley Fortuin, Kyle Hendricks, Sinovuyo Ganto, Anrich Richter
Conversions: Juan Kotze (3)
Tries: Adriaan Engelbrecht (3), Berty Visser
Conversions: Andre Pretorius (4)