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Rugby | Absa Currie Cup

Justin Downey © Gallo Images

Griquas stay in contention



Griquas kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the Currie Cup Premier Division semifinals with a hard-fought 29-20 (halftime 15-17) win over the luckless Leopards in Kimberley on Friday night.

The match was an entirely forgettable affair, played out in front of a small crowd who witnessed a scrappy contest in which the only question was who would make the next mistake.

Indeed, it was the Griquas’ cheerleaders who were left to do most of the entertaining because there was very little of it on the field of play.

Still, five log points are five log points, and Griquas’ full house takes them to 30 with three matches remaining in their campaign. Dawie Theron’s men currently occupy fifth spot on the table, with only points difference separating them from the fourth-placed Lions, who have played one match fewer.

Interestingly, however, is that the Lions play the Blue Bulls, currently sixth with 29 points, in a 5pm Saturday kickoff which is sure to be watched with interest by the men from Kimberley.

With the Sharks and Western Province seemingly in pole position to take two of the four playoff spots available, an almighty four-way scrap is beginning to take shape for the final two places, with only three points separating third-placed Free State from the Blue Bulls.

The Cheetahs play the seventh-placed Pumas in Saturday’s other match.

For the poor Leopards, this was their 11th straight loss in a winless campaign and they now look for all money to have secured the wooden spoon -- and with it the unenviable task of taking on either the rampant EP Kings, or the rapidly improving SWD Eagles, in the season-ending promotion-relegation matches to decide who will play in the top flight next season.

The Leopards once again gave their all but fell just short of breaking their duck. Centre Walter Venter capped off a fine display with two good tries, the first of which came in the sixth minute to give the visitors an unexpected 7-0 lead after flyhalf Clayton Durand’s conversion.

But Griquas fullback Riaan Viljoen was equal to the task, crossing for the first of his two tries just minutes later to narrow the gap, before home team flanker Johan van Deventer scrambled over after 15 minutes to give Griquas a 12-7 lead thanks to Naas Olivier’s conversion.

Venter then went over for his second with barely 20 minutes gone as the pendulum swung the Leopards’ way again. Olivier and Durand meanwhile traded penalties to see the men from Potchefstroom lead 20-15 with half an hour remaining, but it proved to be the end of their point-scoring for the night.

Flanker Justin Downey, formerly of the Sharks, rounded off an industrious night for his adopted province by diving over in the right-hand corner after 52 minutes to allow Olivier to recapture the lead with an excellent conversion.

Durand, whose kicking radar had worked well up to that point, then had an easy penalty to give the Leopards the lead with five minutes remaining. But he proceeded to fluff the chance, and with it went his team’s confidence.

Griquas made sure of victory when Viljoen scored his second with two minutes remaining to give his side the vital bonus point.

For the Leopards, Venter tried his heart out all night but the man of the match spoils deservedly went to Griquas hooker Ryno Barnes, who not only worked tirelessly in the scrums and at ruck time but also set up Viljoen’s opening score.

Scorers:

Griquas 29 – Tries: Riaan Viljoen (2), Johan van Deventer, Justin Downey. Conversions: Naas Olivier (3). Penalty: Olivier.

Leopards 20 – Tries: Walter Venter (2). Conversions: Clayton Durand (2). Penalties: Durand (2).

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