Late try gives Eagles win over Blue Bulls
The SWD Eagles scored an upset 25-23 (halftime 10-20) win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Police College in Pretoria West on Saturday, with a last-minute try by prop Anton van der Westhuizen proving the difference between the sides.
The Blue Bulls still scraped through to the playoffs of the Vodacom Cup courtesy of losing bonus points, but will have to improve a lot if they want to defend the Cup they won last year.
The Bulls had most of the play in the first half, despite losing Marnitz Boshoff to injury early on.
The Nelspruit-born pivot did land a penalty before departing and although it caused the Blue Bulls backline to lose some fluency, replacement Pieter van der Walt soon got his backs firing again.
This, along with strong driving play up front, gave the home side the edge in the first half and things looked pretty good for the Blue Bulls at the break.
They were leading 20-10 after scoring three tries, including a brace by the impressive Francois Venter.
In reply, the visitors’ only answer was a converted try by Howard Noble and a penalty by Raynor Bekker.
A scoring repeat by both visiting players just after the restart changed the picture completely.
First Bekker landed a long-range penalty, before Noble ran strongly through numerous tackles to score his second of the afternoon.
Bekker’s conversion suddenly had the visiting side level and with their tails up.
The Blue Bulls were guilty of making too many handling errors on attack, but credit must go to the dogged defence shown by the Eagles.
Their back three, with Baldwin McBean and Noble in particular, often ran strong on the counter-attack.
A Dustin Jinka penalty, after some good driving play by Corné Fourie, forced the Eagles to concede a penalty and seemed to secure the win for the home side.
Bekker had a chance to level matters with a long-range effort from within his own half, but his kick was just short.
But after Van der Westhuizen’s burst in the dying seconds, it did not matter.
SWD Eagles 25 – Tries: Howard Noble (2), Anton van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Raynor Bekker (2). Penalties: Bekker (2).
Blue Bulls 23 – Tries: Francois Venter (2), Juandré Kruger. Conversions: Dustin Jinka. Penalties: Marnitz Boshoff, Jinka.