The Tafel Lager Griquas came to Jonsson Kings Park high on confidence, continuing some excellent form to take a 37-27 victory over the Cell C Sharks in a Carling Currie Cup match filled with drama.
Six yellow cards in the match – one for the Cell C Sharks and five for the visitors – saw Griquas, down to 13 men in the first half and 12 in the second, defend as if their very existence in the competition rested on the outcome of this match. Credit must go to the team who finished the weekend in second position and showed that they are a force in this competition.
Griquas struck an early blow inside the opening few minutes, first phase attack off their scrum inside the Cell C Sharks’ resulting in the try and conversion under the shadow of the posts to take a 7-nil lead.
Curwin Bosch cut the deficit to four points with a successful penalty moments later and Phepsi Buthelezi finished off what would have been an outstanding team try but for the final pass ruled forward by the TMO. It did indicate the pace and intensity the Durban side were looking to play at.
They continued to hammer away and to Griquas’ credit, their defence stood firm, but they were conceding penalty after penalty and after sustained infringements trying to defend their line, the seventh penalty led to a yellow card.
Barely a minute and a half later, Griquas lost a second player to the sin bin for an off the ball incident while the Cell C Sharks were on their eighth penalty advantage
Griquas deserve huge credit for the way they defended, but just as they were restored to 14 men, the Cell C Sharks showed how dangerous they can be in broken play, Werner Kok doing all the hard work before some deft interplay saw Mpilo Gumede in great supporting play making the final run for the tryline to give his team the lead on the half hour.
With half-time looming, a scrum penalty for Griquas set up the attacking maul from the lineout near the tryline and they executed perfectly to drive over for their second try for a 14-8 lead. The break didn’t come before Griquas managed a third try, the ball bouncing loose from a clearing kick and possession regained for the visitors to score their third try before taking a 21-8 lead at the end of a dramatic first half.
Dominating possession in the early phases of the second half, Griquas rumbled the ball over for the bonus point try with five minutes play behind them and the warning signs continued as the visitors made it a 20 point lead.
A scrum penalty pushed Griquas into a 31-8 lead with 25 minutes remaining, marking the introduction of a number of Cell C Sharks replacements who would be expected to inject some energy into their team’s effort.
One of those replacements, Henco Venter was held up over the tryline twice as the Cell C Sharks continued to exert pressure on attack while Griquas were managing to absorb everything being thrown at them. However, not always illegally so and with 20 minutes remaining and Griquas holding the line, they lost a third player
They were reduced to 13 men for cynical defence two minutes later, continuing to deny the Cell C Sharks and adding to their frustrations.
Griquas earned a fifth yellow card for cynical play on defence and down to 12 men, finally had no answer as Reniel Hugo found himself in space on the wing to score the Cell C Sharks’ second try with just under 15 minutes remaining.
Griquas kicked a second penalty to make it 34-13 before the numbers disadvantage cost Griquas again when Yaw Penxe rounded off a good attacking effort, Bosch’s conversion taking the score to 34-20 to the visitors and 10 minutes remaining.
Griquas took a 17 point lead with a long range penalty with five minutes remaining to push the deficit beyond two converted tries.
Thembelani Bholi cut the lead with the Cell C Sharks fourth and bonus point try, Bosch making it a 10 point game with the conversion, but it was less than three minutes left in the match to pull off a dramatic win – or draw.