East London - There was a much-improved display by the Border Bulldogs in a hard-fought Vodacom Cup match against the Toyota Free State XV on a crisp, cool evening at Buffalo City stadium on Friday, the supersport.com website reports.
Although they lost the game 10-14, their fifth loss in a row, the home team can certainly hold their heads up high with all facets of their game improved beyond recognition.
It was a rip-roaring match with plenty of action, and Border's lineout work, hard tackling and willingness to throw out long passes drew plenty of applause from the noisy crowd in attendance.
Previously this season their defence was a major problem, but this time defence was key to the low score conceded. A strong push by the forwards even won them one hook against the head just before half-time.
Then fullback Coyi Banda’s penalty kick hit the left upright and bounced back into play to rob Border of three vital points.
At the break they were trailing only 3-5 after Banda had landed a penalty on 16 minutes to get the scoreboard moving, but six minutes later wing sensation Sergeal Petersen broke free from a tackle and dashed all of 50m along the left side to dot down. Flyhalf Daniel Marais was unable to convert a relatively easy kick.
Petersen had been on the attack throughout but five minutes into the second half a heavy tackle led to the sad sight of seeing the promising wing stretchered off to severely weaken the Free State’s attacking options.
A penalty by Marais after eight minutes straight in front and 35 metres out saw the visitors increase their lead, but Border fought back well, always looking for scoring opportunities, and in the 20th minute their lock Lindokuhle Welemu barged over for an easy try. Banda converted for Border to take a slender lead 10-8. The lead changed hands when Marais succeeded with a second penalty shortly afterward.
Moments before the hooter blew for full-time, Marais succeeded with his third penalty.
Try: Lindokuhle Welemu
Conversion: Coyi Banda
Free State XV:
Try: Sergeal Petersen
Penalties: Daniel Marais (3)