Valke fight back to clinch semi spot
The Valke came from 21 points back to beat the Border Bulldogs 34-31 (halftime 10-21) and secure a semi-final place in a dramatic Absa Currie Cup First Division match at Buffalo City Stadium in East London on Friday.
The visitors were very much in a do-or-die situation as they trailed 31-10 midway through the second half and then 31-22 with just nine minutes remaining but, despite having been behind the eight-ball for most of the game, they showed remarkable character to come back and steal victory.
Replacement wing Kyle Hendricks scored the match-winning try after the Valke won a turnover, quickly swung the ball left and the Cape Town-born 24-year-old set off on an exceptional run to beat the cover defence and ensure the hosts exited the tournament in cruel fashion.
Scrumhalf Jaco Snyman, who had an excellent game, had minutes earlier exploded off the base of a ruck to score his second try and give the Valke hope.
The Bulldogs made a fine start to the game - none more so than in-form flyhalf Ntabeni Dukisa, who scored a try, which he converted, and then kicked a penalty to give Border an early 10-0 lead.
Although Valke flyhalf Juan Kotze kicked a penalty (10-3), the Bulldogs extended their lead as wing Vuyo Mboto sped away for a try, Dukisa adding another penalty to make the score 18-3.
But the home side will be rueing an unfortunate injury that then forced the retreaded wing off the field.
Border were quick to open the second half with a try by flank Shane Spring and replacement flyhalf Dale Sabbagh added the conversion and two penalties as the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 31-10.
The pacy Border backs had been in fine form in the first half, but they would be denied enough ball to make their mark in the second half.
Slowly but surely, the Valke began to hold on to the ball more and locked the Bulldogs into their own territory. A well-knit rolling maul saw lock Chris Ehlers add to Snyman's try just before halftime and the men from Kempton Park then closed the gap to 31-22 with a neatly-taken try by centre Clinton Kayser.
The visitors' celebrations did not end there, however, as the Valke's huge bear-like forwards extinguished the Bulldogs' resistance.
Hendricks' excellent footwork and an excruciating missed tackle at the death would seal Border's fate.
Border Bulldogs - Tries: Ntabeni Dukisa, Vuyo Mboto, Shane Spring. Conversions: Dukisa, Dale Sabbagh. Penalties: Dukisa (2), Sabbagh (2).
Valke: Tries: Jaco Snyman (2), Kyle Hendricks, Chris Ehlers, Clinton Kayser. Conversions: Juan Kotze (3). Penalty: Kotze.