The Vodacom Blue Bulls again scored almost at will, putting nine tries past the Toyota Free State in a 55-17 win, while the Johannesburg hosts had to fend off a strong finishing Leopards team, winning 36-26 for their second win of the week. These results will see the two top guns fight it out for the title.
In the other match of the day, the Valke made a strong start in their match against Phakisa Pumas and although the latter came back in the second half, the East Rand side claimed a 57-24 win.
The Coastal Section of the competition continues on Thursday in Paarl, where DHL Western Province take on the EP Elephants, and the Cell C Sharks clash with Boland. Action in the Inland Section returns to Emirates Airline Park on Friday.
Match summaries and scorers:
Vodacom Blue Bulls 55 (19), Toyota Free State 17 (17)
The Vodacom Blue Bulls jumped into a fast start in their clash against Toyota Free State, scoring three tries in the opening stanza, only for the Bloemfontein side to show a good fight back-effort in the second quarter, cutting the Pretorians’ lead to only two points at the break.
After some good forward play, Werner Gouws (lock) scored early and Bernard van der Linde (scrumhalf) got the first of his two tries before the reserves were back in their seats.
Credit to the Free State, who weathered the initial burst and came back with two tries of their own to make it a contest in the last forty.
The second half saw another strong start by the Pretoria team, but this time there was no reprieve as they scored five unanswered tries.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls scored soon after the restart as Van der Linde raced through a gap following some strong driving play by the forward pack. A second try in quick succession – when Eddie Swart (prop) burst over from a line-out close to the Free State line – suddenly saw the men in blue double their lead in no time.
That seemed to sap the energy from the Bloemfontein side and the Vodacom Blue Bulls started to cross the whitewash with ease. They scored some good tries, including a brace by Siya Tyulu (winger), as the Bloemfonteiners wilted on defence. On the back foot, the Free State side could not get any momentum on attack either and failed to add to their tally in the second half.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Werner Gouws, Keenan Opperman, Bernard van der Linde (2), Siya Tyulu (2), David Kellerman, Kabelo Mokoena, Eddie Swart. Conversions: Lionel April (5).
Toyota Free State – Tries: Andre-Hugo Venter, Max Williamson. Conversions: Franco Smith (2). Penalty goal: Smith.
Valke 57 (33), Phakisa Pumas 24 (0)
It was one-way traffic for the Valke in the first half of their clash against their easterly neighbours, the Phakisa Pumas, as the East Randers bashed their way to a 33-0 lead at the break.
The Valke ran hard and straight, but the same could not be said of the Nelspruit visitors, who looked out of sorts and fairly limp on defence in the first half. Eight of their nine tries were scored by the Valke forwards, who dominated proceedings and delivered a much better performance than Monday.
The second half saw a reversal of fortunes as the Phakisa Pumas started to find some confidence, rhythm and cohesion on attack. This resulted in four tries for the team in grey and pink, and although the result was never in doubt, it gave them some rewards on a much-improved second-half effort.
Valke – Tries: Sushi Mpofu (2), Zander van der Merwe (2), SJ Oberholzer, Thabo Ndimande, Ethan Wentzel, Juan Jansen, Henrique de Sousa. Conversions: Wentzel (3), PJ de Beer (3).
Phakisa Pumas – Tries: Armand Cloete, Lance Smit, Tsepho Mosuma (2). Conversions: Smit (2).
Xerox Golden Lions 36 (26), Leopards 26 (0)
The Xerox Golden Lions came out hot in the opening minutes of the first half and unfortunately for the Leopards, they did not, which resulted in two quick tries by the home side, one a real give-away for Morne Brandon (hooker) following a fluffed lineout by the visitors close to their own line.
Those quickfire tries had the Young Lions up 12-0 in no time and by the time the Leopards had woken up, their opponents were away and cruising. The home side's rolling maul was effective and that added to their try tally twice, and it was no surprise to see them leading 26-0 at the break.
The second half was a different story though. The home side did score again and seemed to be disappearing over the hill, but suddenly the Leopards found their groove.
The Potch boys came back dramatically and even the most ardent Golden Lions supporter would admit that they were getting worried. The visitors managed to hold on to the ball, while the home side lost a bit of direction on defence after a number of replacements was introduced.
That resulted in some tense, but exciting moments in the final minutes of play, but those early strikes were enough to advance the home side into the Inland Section final on Friday.
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Morne Brandon (2). Eckhard Boshoff, Sibusiso Sangweni, Habana Mkwanazi, Boitumelo Tsatsane. Conversions: Regardt Roets (3).
Leopards – Tries: Jandre de Beer, Keenan Twigg, Henru Kotze, Sarel Joubert. Conversions: Zinedane Robinson (3).
Thursday, 26 September, Paarl Gymnasium (Coastal Section)
14h30: DHL Western Province v EP Elephants
16h00: Boland v Cell C Sharks
Friday, 27 August 2019, Emirates Airline Park (Inland Section)
09h00: Phakisa Pumas v Toyota Free State.
11h00: Leopards v Valke
13h00 – Final: Xerox Golden Lions v Vodacom Blue Bulls
Saturday, 28 September Paarl Gymnasium (Coastal Section)
14h00: Eastern Province v Boland
15h30: Cell C Sharks v DHL Western Province