The Cell C Sharks and Toyota Free State put on a wonderful advert for Currie Cup rugby on Saturday before the Cell C Sharks ran out 27-20 victors at JONSSON KINGS PARK.
Free State enjoyed the majority share of possession and territory throughout the game but frequent mistakes and some incredible defence set the tone for a wonderfully exciting victory.
Free State were under early pressure, unable to get out of their own half in the opening five minutes of the game and had a try-saving tackle to thank for the fact that they didn’t concede an early try when a rampaging Kobus van Wyk streaked towards the touchline. However, there was penalty advantage and Curwin Bosch made good use of a difficult position to open the scoring with a well-taken penalty from out wide.
The next score was a thing of beauty and came off some exceptional attacking ability and determination involving most of the Cell C Sharks players. Great patience and accuracy on attack finally found us in a great position just short of the tryline before Curwin Bosch sent a long, looping pass to Lwazi Mvovo out wide and he had no trouble cantering over for the first try of the match. Bosch added the two for a 10 point lead just short of the quarter hour.
Free State struck back almost immediately and with the Cell C Sharks down to 13 men following a clash of heads between Majola and Mvovo in the tackle and both players down, the visitors were able to exploit the numbers advantage to score in the corner although the conversion attempt from out wide missed the mark.
The match was big played at a frenetic pace with Free State putting immense pressure in our half but every wave of attack was repelled by some brave and committed defence.
But the hammering away eventually broke the deadlock and after smashing away time after time, the gap was eventually found for the score-equalising try. The successful conversion took Free State into the lead for the first time in the game with a little over five minutes of the half remaining.
Free State continued to push hard, having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory in the second quarter of the game and they pressed hard to add a further score just before the break. Entering our 22, only committed defence saved the day, the ball was lost forward and Apelele Fassi saw a gap and managed to break through and sprint the 80-odd metres through the middle of the field to score our second try, seconds after the hooter had sounded. Bosch converted and we were into a 17-12 lead, having scored at quite the most important juncture of the game.
Curwin Bosch was hugely instrumental in the next try, initiating the move from his own 22 and then when the ball was eventually close to the line, he sent the long skip pass to Tera Mtembu in the corner. Sadly there was a call for foul play in the lead-up and Craig Burden was yellow carded for what the TMO deemed a dangerous clean out and the try was disallowed.
Free State worked their way into our half before earning a penalty and adding a further three to cut the lead to two points with just under half an hour of this pulsating match remaining.
Although the Cell C Sharks were still down to 14 men as the game approached the last quarter, Curwin Bosch found himself back in the pocket to kick a beautiful drop from 30-odd metres out to cancel out Free State’s earlier penalty.
The following 10 minutes belonged to Free State who sent wave after wave of attack at our line, forcing the Cell C Sharks to continue the heroic defence displayed all game. Starved of ball, there was nothing we could do and eventually the visitors managed to score a TMO referred try in the corner. The missed conversion meant the scores were even at 20-all with a tense final period to play.
With a minute and a half to go, the deadlock was broken when Kobus van Wyk took advantage of the Cheetahs forced to defend at close quarters and hanging out wide, received the final pass to score in the corner after some excellent play, the forwards in particular immense in the build-up.
Rhyno Smith converted from out wide and that was the game!