Captain Jeandre Rudolph scored a hat-trick of tries as the Leopards brought the Boland Cavalliers back down to Earth with a 47-26 (halftime 14-19) Currie Cup First Division victory at the King Edward Sport Ground in Montagu on Saturday.
Boland, who had opened their Currie Cup First Division season with an impressive 40-27 away victory over Eastern Province, were summarily returned to mortals as Rudolph and his men overturned a halftime deficit to record their first victory of the season after opening with a stalemate against the SWD Eagles last week.
Both sides endured periods with 14 men as first the Leopards’ flank Gideon van der Merwe was shown a yellow card in the ninth minute which resulted in referee Mpho Matsaung awarding the home side with a penalty try and then the captain himself being shown his marching orders shortly before the half hour mark.
But the home side had lock Marlyn Williams shown a yellow card by Matsaung on the stroke of halftime as well as fullback Adriaan Carelse shortly after the restart and with Boland down to 13 men, proved to be the turning point in the match as the visitors scored shortly after the restart and never looked back.
The Cavalliers though mad the early running with two tries in the opening quarter of an hour as first hooker Clemen Lewis rumbled over in the corner which was followed by the penalty try to give the home side a 12-nil lead. But some enterprising play from the Leopards brought the game to life as Number 8 Rudolph rounded off a brilliant move which saw the captain score the first of his three tries close to the poles, making the conversion for flyhalf Gerhard Nortier a simple one.
Nortier missed a penalty goal shortly after Van der Merwe’s return to the field but the miss proved cheap as Rudolph crashed over the line just moments later, giving Nortier another easy conversion to hand the lead to the visitors for the first time in the match.
With Rudolph being shown his yellow card on 27 minutes, the home side capitalised and scored their third try of the game through flank Ludio Williams, which flyhalf Divan Nel converted easily enough to hand the advantage back to the home side. Williams’ yellow card brought about the ned to an entertaining first half in front of 2300 boisterous fans, enjoying some sun in the Brederiver Valley town.
With just three minutes having passed after the beginning of the second stanza, Carelse was asked to spend 10 minutes on the side of the field and with the Cavalliers down to 13 men, the Leopards pounced, scoring their third try through left wing Gene Willemse, who used some space brilliantly to run round and score behind the poles. Nortier converted to give the visitors a slender two-point lead.
Williams returned to the field with little damage done but then the Leopards’ captain roared over the tryline for his third, forcing his way over in the corner to register the bonus-point try for the Leopards. Centre Bradley Moolman then extended the lead to 14 points midway through the second half before Willemse scored his second 10 minutes later to put the match to bed, with replacement flyhalf Schalk Hugo converting Willemse’s try.
Boland though failed to give up in pursuit of their bonus-point try and found the space with just a minute left on the clock as Carelse redeemed himself, scoring a well-worked try which Nel converted but to rub salt into the wounds of the home fans, the Leopards scored their sixth try of the day straight from the kick-off as a mistake from the home team’s defense allowed Hugo to scored close the poles, which he converted himself.