Eagles back in title hunt
The SWD Eagles got their Currie Cup First Division campaign back on track with a 47-15 (halftime 40-0) victory over the Valke at Outeniqua Park in George on Saturday.
The old saying, “it was a game of two halves”, may be one of the most over-used expressions in sport, but it perfectly summed up a match in which the home side were as poor in the second half as they were rampant in the first.
The Eagles, who lost 44-26 to the Pumas last weekend, totally dominated their Gauteng opponents in the opening 40 minutes, scoring the bonus point try within 25 minutes and notching up six touchdowns in total before the half-time break.
But a slew of half-time replacements and poor option-taking meant that they could add only one further score in the second half while the Valke replied with three tries of their own -- all of them to livewire flanker Reg Muller.
The match might have petered out from an Eagles perspective, but coach Johann Lerm’s men nevertheless picked up their third win in four matches to move up to third on the table with 13 points, one behind the unbeaten Pumas.
For the Valke, relegated from the Currie Cup Premier Division last year, the fall from the big leagues has been a painful one. They remain rooted to the bottom of the table, with only a solitary point to show after four rounds, although they will take heart from the way they fought back in this encounter.
The Eagles, at least to start with, gave their supporters plenty to shout about and the victory never looked in doubt once winger Norman Nelson and scrumhalf Jandré Blom had gone over for tries to make it 14-0 in as many minutes.
Flanker Shawn Raubenheimer also had an excellent day at the office, making the most of Lerm’s decision to rest regular back-rower Victor Joubert for this outing.
Raubenheimer scored two first-half tries and dovetailed well with fellow loose forwards Schalk van der Merwe and eighthman Jody Burch, who played Vodacom Cup rugby this year for Western Province before being lured to George.
But with the match seemingly wrapped up at half time, the Eagles’ coaching staff unloaded their bench, only to watch in horror as their side produced an error-ridden second stanza.
Nelson, the former Springbok Sevens player, was one Eagles player who kept his head while others were losing theirs. He scored his second try after 53 minutes thanks to a trademark, long-range hack-ahead and chase, but the expected avalanche of points never materialised.
Instead it was Muller, who stood head and shoulders above his Valke teammates, who singlehandedly kept the scorers busy, with tries in the 42nd, 67th and 70th minutes to make the afternoon one to tell the grandchildren about.
SWD Eagles 47 – Tries: Norman Nelson (2), Jandré Blom, Anton van der Westhuizen, Shawn Raubenheimer (2), penalty try. Conversions: Blom (6).
Valke 15 – Tries: Reg Muller (3).