SP Marais scored 17 points as DHL Western Province held on to beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls 45-34 (halftime 42-13) in the Currie Cup at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
It was a tale of two halves as the home side ran in all of their six tries in the first 40 minutes but the mindset of defending a lead set in and the Bulls came storming back with three of their four tries in the second stanza but Province held on to clinch their second victory from four starts.
Fullback Marais scored a try, six conversions and a penalty for a perfect match with the boot while fans were treated to one of the best tries of the season from flyhalf Damian Willemse, who received the man of the match award.
The 19-year old was instrumental in Province’s display with some fleet-footed work and good line kicks from the hand. Willemse’s try came in the 11th minute as Number 8, Nizaam Carr, carried the ball and offloaded in the tackle to the Province pivot, who then side-stepped seven defenders to score just right of the poles.
Despite the Bulls taking an early lead with a penalty from flyhalf Tony Jantjies, Province stamped their authority on the encounter with a dominant scrum, possession and territory. Marais, who was unlucky not to be named man of the match, burst down the field and fed right wing Seabelo Senatla who raced down the right wing before passing inside to Carr, who drove over the line for the opening try.
Jantjies narrowed the gap to just a point with his second penalty of the afternoon but that was as close they would come to the hosts on the scoreboard as Province took complete control.
Province scored four more tries to open up a commanding 35-6 lead on the half-hour mark, sealing their bonus-point as early as the 22nd minute when Senalta himself scored the first of his two tries of the match. Once Willemse had scored, Marais himself crossed the line after some good work down the left wing from substitute Dan Kriel, who had replaced Bjorn Basson.
Kriel burst down the left hand touchline before offloading to Scotland International, Huw Jones, but the centre was brought down short of the line and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, fed Marais close to the ruck, who burst over for the third try of the game.
Moments later and Province were extending their lead as Kriel again burst down the left, but the home side then moved the ball out to the right where Jones lofted a pass out to Senatla, who then dived over the line in the corner. Marais’ kicking boots were on song as he landed the conversion from an extremely tight angle.
Province scored their fifth try on the half hour mark when hooker Scarra Ntubeni wheeled away from a maul close to the line to score but then shortly after the kick-off, the Bulls scored against the run of play. Jambo Ulengo, who had a storming game for the visitors, fought his way through two defenders before offloading to outside centre Dries Swanepoel, who then chipped ahead for scrumhalf Piet van Zyl to gather and score under the poles.
Province were not done for the half as a powerful scrum on the Bulls line allowed Carr to pick up and feed Senatla, who danced inside to score his second try of the game shortly before halftime. But this is where things started to fall apart for the men from Cape Town.
With time up on the clock, the home side began conceding multiple penalties and referee Stuart Berry, after a team warning to captain Chris van Zyl, showed centre EW Viljoen a yellow card for a no-arms tackle after the Bulls had sustained pressure on the Province line for five minutes after the hooter had sounded.
But Province held out and went into the changerooms with a healthy 29-point advantage.
The second stanza was all Bulls as the men from Pretoria swamped the Cape Tonians with wave after wave of attacks. It took the Bulls just three minutes after the restart to score their second try after Senalta tried to clear the ball but only managed to kick the ball straight to Kefentse Mahlo, who burst over to score.
With the Bulls on attack, Province managed to turn the ball over and with Willemse leading a counter-attack, the home fans were looking forward to a seventh try for the home team. Willemse fed Senatla on the outside but was brought down inside the 22m area and the Bulls counter-rucked in numbers with the right wing Mahlo being fed the ball and sprinting all the way down the field to score a converted try.
The momentum was with the visitors and despite Marais slotting a penalty midway through the second half, the Bulls came roaring back with their bonus-point try through replacement hooker, Johan Grobbelaar. The Bulls were awarded a free-kick from a scrum and Ulengo charged towards the line, only to be stopped short but Grobbelaar picked up and charged over to leave the visitors just 11 points adrift with 12 minutes left on the clock.
The home side were dealt another blow when replacement prop Michael Kumbirai was shown a yellow card for cynical play when the Bulls tried to take another quick-tap penalty. But the home side showed resilience and held out for their second win of the campaing and draw level with the Bulls on 11 points after four matches.
Province, who had been run ragged by the Tafel Lager Griquas just three days earlier, will need to work on their discipline as they also suffered two yellow cards in their previous game as Griquas ran in 20 unanswered points to win in Kimberley.