It was the fourth time the Northern Free State side won this title, but this one will be remembered for the comeback effort needed in the second half.

The Down Touch Griffons were out of the blocks like lightning and were up 22-0 after 15 minutes of play.

But the EP Elephants crawled their way back into the match and at one stage, with 10 minutes left, were only four points behind their opponents.

A late spurt by the defending champions meant they will travel home with smiles on their faces and gold medals around their necks.

The Down Touch Griffons had the wind to their favour in the opening half and used it to devastating effect. They took the lead early, with Franco Smith (centre) hitting the mark with a penalty goal for a 3-0 lead.

Smith added a try to his tally soon after after he exploited the gap created by an earlier run from Aaron Leruw (winger) to score. His conversion went wide, but the lead extended to eight points.

That changed quickly.

First, Schalk Bezuidenhout (flanker) scored from a lineout close to the line and then Jan Strydom (flyhalf) ran a beautiful line to split the EP defence open and score under the sticks 60 meters downfield. Suddenly the lead jumped to 22-0 after only 15 minutes of play.

The EP Elephants recovered somewhat, shoring up their defence, and when they got the opportunity to turn defence into attack did so beautifully.

Laken Grey (flanker) found open space and his pass found Curtley Deysel (winger), who scored his eighth try of the tournament. Johan Lombaard (flyhalf) added the conversion to give his team some say in the match after 25 minutes.

The slide was arrested, but not stopped, as the defending champions had one last sortie to the tryline just before the break, with Max Williamson (scrumhalf) darting through. That was good reward for pack, who set up the try with good driving play.

Credit to EP though, who refused to give up the momentum gained in the last quarter of the half. A quick tap penalty by Deysel saw the winger dummy his way past a heap of Down Touch Griffons for try number nine in 2019.

The try also gave the Elephants some belief, but the Northern Free Staters’ early efforts had them in full control of their destiny with 40 minutes to play.

The second half saw more decisive attack from the Eastern Cape side. Deysel got his third in the opening minutes of the second half. The EP moved the ball from one side of the field to the other and that continuity on attack proved too much for the Griffons defence.

Deysel didn’t need a second invite to the try-line and when he was put into space, he gladly accepted. Lombaard kicked the conversion to cut the lead to ten points.

Some poor discipline had the Down Touch Griffons down to 14 players as Roux Duvenhage (replacement prop) was shown yellow for a high tackle. From that penalty, a monster kick of over 55 meters by EP’s replacement flyhalf, Matthew Olivera, cut the lead to seven.

Smith kicked his first penalty goal of the second half to extend the lead to 10 points again with 25 minutes left in the match. From the restart though, EP managed to win the ball back and attacked with zest. Lennox Holster (centre) found some space and dotted down for his team's fourth try, beautifully converted by Sachin Toring (fullback) to cut the lead to four points.

The Down Touch Griffons are not defending champions for nothing though. They kept plugging away and from close out, Jhaques Thyssen (replacement hooker) bulldozed over for what proved to be a decisive try with 10 minutes to play. 


Down Touch Griffons 37 (29) – Tries: Franco Smith, Schalk Bezuidenhout, Jan Strydom, Max Williamson, Jhaques Thyssen. Conversions: Smith (3). Penalty goals: Smith (2). 

EP Elephants 29 (12) – Tries: Curtley Deysel (3), Lennox Holster. Conversions: Johan Lombaard (2), Sachin Toring. Penalty goal: Matthew Olivera.