Under-13 Coca-Cola Craven Week hosts, DHL Western Province, and the Sharks on Thursday continued their winning ways at Paarl Gymnasium to remain the only unbeaten teams in the competition before the final day’s play on Friday.
DHL Western Province, who won the final match of the tournament last season, edged the Itec Blue Bulls 11-10, while the Sharks pipped the TW Profile Services Valke 15-14 in epic encounters.
DHL Western Province drew first blood in their clash against the Itec Blue Bulls as they used their pace out wide to touch down for their first try in the first minute. But the Pretoria side tightened up their defence and used the raw pace by some of their backs to counter a few more efforts by the hosts to find space out wide. With the teams closely matched on attack and defence, Western Province opted for a penalty to inflate their score, and the Bulls took the same option minutes later to trail 8-3. The visitors tried hard to sneak in for a try before the break, but they battled to break through the defensive wall, and conceded a turnover.
The Blue Bulls continued to show their determination to score in the second half by stringing together phases on attack and chipping away at the defence, and their efforts were rewarded in the 35th minute with a try from a pick-and-go. The successful conversion pushed them 10-8 ahead on the scoreboard. Western Province, however, forced their way back into the lead with their second penalty minutes later. The closing minutes of the match were fast and furious as the teams ran hard on attack, but were constantly shut out by the defence, which allowed Western Province to secure the 11-10 victory.
The Sharks applied early pressure on the TW Profile Services Valke thanks to their balanced approach on attack in which their forwards produced a solid performance up-front, while the backs supported them well, which allowed them to camp in the Valke’s half for several minutes in the opening exchanges. Their efforts paid off with a try in the 10th minute to take a 5-0 lead.
The Valke, however, hit back four minutes later as they snatched the ball out of the air under the Sharks’ noses from a high bounce to score their first try, and the successful conversion pushed them 7-5 ahead. The Kempton Park side managed to hold onto this lead going into the break.
The Sharks came out firing after the break and scored two tries in quick succession to take a 15-7 lead. The Valke, however, kept alive their hopes of a victory with a try from a loose ball two minutes before the final whistle to trail 15-14. They received an opportunity to snatch a victory with a late penalty. However, their final attempt to run at the Sharks proved unsuccessful as the defence shut them out.
In the other matches, Border CD, the Pumas and Free State registered their first victories of the tournament.
Border CD fought back after trailing 3-0 at the break to defeat Namibia 5-3, while the Pumas scored a last-gasp try in the final minute against Griquas to sneak through for a 36-35 victory, and the Free State started strongly to defeat the Leopards 25-15.
The Griffons, meanwhile, ran in an impressive nine tries to only three by Eastern Province for a memorable 49-17 victory, while Border outplayed Old Mutual Zimbabwe 30-7 and SWD held on for a narrow 17-13 victory against the Forever Resorts Limpopo Blue Bulls.
The Bidvest Golden Lions also faced a tough challenge in their match against Boland despite starting the clash with a bang with two tries in the first 11 minutes. Boland hit back soon after with two tries in seven minutes, which saw the teams enter the break tied at 10-10.
Both teams gave everything in the second half to gain an advantage. The Lions added a third try in the fourth quarter to take a 15-10 lead, and with both sides defending solidly, that proved to be the only points of the half. This sealed the victory for the Johannesburg side.
The U13 Coca-Cola Craven Week and Under-16 Coca-Cola Grant Khomo Weeks will conclude on Friday, while the U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week and Coca-Cola Academy Week will be hosted at Kearsney College in Durban from Monday,11 July, to Saturday, 16 July, in the grand finale to the Coca-Cola Youth Weeks series.
The Sharks and Blue Bulls will meet in the final match of the U16 Coca-Cola Grant Khomo Week after winning their opening two matches.
The Blue Bulls defeated the Bidvest Golden Lions and the Limpopo Blue Bulls, while the Sharks beat Boland and the Pumas to book their places in the closing match.
The final round of U13 Coca-Cola Craven Week fixtures have yet to be confirmed.
U13 Coca-Cola Craven Week round-three results (Thursday, 7 July):