Johannesburg - The Border Bulldogs ran out 26-25 (half time 12-10) victors over the Boland Cavaliers at the Buffalo City Municipality Stadium in East London on Friday to clinch their first win of this year's Vodacom Cup.
Having led 12-10 at half time, the hosts' defence nearly cost them the game, as Cavaliers substitute hooker Heinrich Pretorius ran in two second-half tries, the second of which put his team ahead with just five minutes remaining.
However, the Bulldogs were able to hold their nerve, and a late penalty from fullback Karlo Aspeling saw them seal the narrowest of triumphs.
The game began at high pace, and three minutes in it was the visitors who opened the scoring.
Fullback Jacquin Jansen burst through a lacklustre Bulldogs defensive line, and centre Braam Gerber accepted his offload to score under the posts.
Border came back into the match, and some sustained pressure saw winger Joe Seerane dot down in the 13th minute for his fifth try of the season.
Flyhalf Dale Sabbagh missed the conversion though, and his counterpart Ricardo Croy put Boland back out to a 10-5 lead four minutes later with a penalty.
Croy then had another opportunity for three points in the 20th minute, but his effort was away to the right.
A riddle of errors followed before the hosts struck with just seconds remaining in the half, as hooker Dean Muir controlled the ball at the back of a rolling maul to score a try in the corner.
Sabbagh was then successful with the difficult conversion.
Following the restart, the Bulldogs had all the momentum with their dominance showing in the 45th minute as loosehead Kwezi Mkhafu cleaned up a loose ball and dived over the line.
Despite the conversion miss, the home fans would have been happy as their team led 17-10.
However, the Border defence was caught on the counter attack. A line break from Boland set up a ruck on the try line in the 51st minute, and Pretorius emerged with the ball to score Boland's second try of the night.
Croy's conversion levelled the match at 17 all before controversy followed. Border appeared to have hit back within seconds, as Ruan Jacobs chased an up-and-under and scored under the posts.
However, the winger was ruled to have been in front of the kicker by the TMO, with Croy also slotting the resultant penalty.
The Bulldogs replied by levelling matters in the 56th minute with a penalty from Aspeling, and a second three pointer from the fullback 10 minutes later saw them back in front at 23-20.
Boland then held sway in the minutes that followed, and Pretorius had his brace as he crashed over in the 75th minute. But Croy was unable to convert, and it proved to be crucial miss, the match decided two minutes later when the Cavaliers conceded a penalty in front of their posts.
Aspeling made no mistake, and Border hung on for a dramatic victory.
The win takes the Bulldogs up to five points for the campaign, however they remain bottom in the South Section, while the Cavaliers sit one place higher on eight points.