Johannesburg - The visiting Free State XV started strongly and collected a full house of log points as they beat hosts Boland Cavaliers 28-20 (halftime 20-0) in their Vodacom Cup match played at Wesbank Stadium, Malmesbury on Saturday afternoon.
Winger Nhlanhla Mlondobozi dotted down to give the visitors an early lead but center Niel Marais missed the attempted conversion. Marais made up for his earlier miss by slotting a penalty to extend the lead to 8-0.
Wayven Smith, the livewire flanker, forced his way over the try line for the second five pointer of the match and Marais was once again wayward with his conversion attempt.
A loose ball was dealt poorly by Boland, and flyhalf Logan Basson, a late change after Reinhardt Erwee pulled a hamstring during the warm-up, dotted down to open a substantial gap for the Free Staters.
Marais finally managed to kick a conversion and the score of 20-0 remained unchanged until the interval.
Boland must have been read the riot act during the break and came out motivated after the first half. Big prop prop Ashton Constant barged over to get the Cavaliers on the board and fullback Eric Zana converted to make it 20-7.
Marais increased the buffer with his second penalty of the match after Boland infringed on the ground.
Zana narrowed the gap with two well taken penalties and had a chance to make it a seven point game after the Free State XV were adjudged to have transgressed at a scrum.
His attempt drifted wide and this turned out to be a vital miss in the context of the match.
When a poor kick by the Boland was fielded by fullback Luke Cyster he set off on a swaying run and found winger Sino Ganto. Ganto beat a handful of defenders before finding Marais who passed to his center mate Nicolaas Lee who gave a simple wide pass to flanker Zingisa April.
Marais missed the conversion to leave to score on 28-13 with five minutes left in the encounter.
A late try by replacement winger Cheslyn Roberts had the partisan crowd on their feet and when Zana nailed the touchline conversion they nearly went ballistic.
Unfortunately for the home team there was to be no magical ending and the visitors held out to record a vital victory away.
Boland Cavaliers - Tries: Ashton Constant, Cheslyn Roberts; Conversion: Eric Zana (2); Penalties: Zana (2).
Free State XV - Tries: Nhlanhla Mlondobozi , Wayven Smith; Logan Basson, Zingisa April ; Conversions: Niel Marais ; Penalties: Marais (2).