A late surge from Western Province clinched a tense 41-35 victory over Griquas for the visitors in what was an entertaining spectacle of running rugby in Kimberley on Saturday.
The game started at a frenetic pace with both sides flying at each other without either managing to string together enough meaningful momentum or possession to penetrate the opposition defences.
Western Province tighthead prop Brok Harris was penalised on halfway early on and the home side opted to set up an attacking line-out off which they ran a set move.
Speedy scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius was fed the ball on the blindside and broke through to put himself in a one-on-one situation, but was brought down just short of the line.
The Griquas did well to maintain control of the ball in the face of some fierce early tackling from the visitors and they eventually managed to shift it wide and fullback Rudi Vogt surged at the line before dotting down for a well-worked opening try.
Although Vogt missed the relatively easy conversion he made up for that five minutes later when he slotted a penalty from in front of the poles to make the score 8-0 to the home side.
Western Province kicker Demetri Catrakilis missed his first attempt at goal shortly thereafter and his team were punished by a magnificent long-range try. The Griquas won the ball back and the versatile Riaan Viljoen, playing at flyhalf, broke the line before finding hooker Ryno Barnes flying on the outside with a perfectly weighted pass.
Barnes thundered over the advantage line with Western Province scrambling to get back and cover him before giving a neat inside ball to Davon Raubenheimer who was running a good support line and cruised over for an impressive try.
Vogt's conversion made it 15-0 and Griquas were firmly in the driving seat at the end of the first 20 minutes.
The visitors launched a sustained attack in reply and even refused to kick for poles as they made a concerted effort to cross the whitewash, and the bold call from captain Tiaan Liebenberg was rewarded when he crashed over to round off his teams first meaningful foray into the opposition 22.
The Province fight back continued when Dewaldt Duvenage put a little kick over the top and veteran fullback Conrad Jantjes did well to win it back after the Griquas had allowed it to bounce up. He took the ball to ground and they spread it down the hands until it got to N0.8 Nick Koster who threw a good dummy and stepped inside to cross the line unopposed.
Catrakilis' second conversion brought his side to within one point of their hosts at 14-15 and the game was set up nicely with just five minutes left until the break and both teams grappling for the ascendency.
Western Province were not just waiting for the whistle as they proved when they struck a crucial blow with a long range try that saw elusive centre Johann Sadie stretch the Griquas defence by ghosting through a gap and then swopping passes with Catrakilis bvefore offloading to Duvenage who was racing up on his inside and cantered over to cap an impressive team effort.
After Catrakilis had added the extras it was 21-15 and the teams were sent to the changerooms to reflect on a half which had seen two clear periods of dominance with Griquas bossing the opening quarter before Western Province hit back with three tries of their own without reply.
The Cape side wrapped up the bonus point early in the second half when they sent it down the backline after the forwards had won goof front-foot ball in Griquas territory. Sadie drifted wide to take Marcel Brache's long pass and beat a tackler before giving it to Jantjes on his outside and the seasoned fullback powered over in the corner.
True to form, Griquas hit back to keep the contest alive when Davon Raubenheimer latched on to the back of a well-set driving maul and got over the line for his second try. The conversion from Vogt reduced the gap to 26-22, and with half an hour left it was anyone's game.
The see-saw battle continued as both teams ran at each other with gusto and Western Province's willingness to spread the ball wide was rewarded once more when left wing JJ Engelbrecht finished off a flowing movement in the corner to give his side a crucial eight-point lead at 31-22.
The Griquas were determined to stay in touch and they stormed into the opposition 22 when Viljoen got his hands throught the tackle and offloaded to inside centre Hanno Coetzee. After a sustained period of pressure they sent it out to Vogt who got over for his second try to secure the bonus point for his team, he did not manage to convert but his team were right back in it as they trailed 27-31 with 20 minutes left.
The home team threw everything they had at the Western Province defence and they found some space on the right with replacement fullback Earl Rose joining the line well before getting his pass away in the 22. Marnus Schoeman then picked the ball up and showed good strength to make some vital ground before stetching out to score a try that gave his side the lead at 32-31.
However, that was not the end of this remarkable try-fest and the visitors managed to score two further tries in reply to snatch the initiative late in the game. Sadie rounded off another free-flowing surge into Griquas territory and Province had the lead back at 36-32.
Engelbrecht got his second try soon after when he chased down a well-weighted kick ahead by his skipper Liebenberg and although Catrakilis missed both conversions in what was a difficult day for all the kickers his team were in control at 41-32.
Rose slotted a penalty shortly after that as the Griquas put themselves within striking distance before putting some late pressure on the visiting team in a fitting end to this epic clash.
Griquas were not able to provide one last twist, but they had played their part in a pulsating match and walked away with a deserved two log points.
Tries: Vogt 2, Raubenheimer 2, Coetzee
Cons: Vogt 2
Pens: Vogt, Rose
For Western Province:
Tries: Liebenberg, Koster, Duvenage, Jantjes, Engelbrecht 2, Sadie
Cons: Catrakilis 3
Griquas: 15 Rudi Vogt, 14 Wilmaure Louw, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Hanno Coetzee, 11 Dusty Noble, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (captain), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Ivann Espag.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Steph Roberts, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Matthew Roslee, 22 Earl Rose.
Western Province: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Tertius Daniller, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg (captain), 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Quinton Roux, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Steven Hunt.
Referee: Marius Jonker
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