Eastern Province came from behind to snatch a sensation one-point (26-25) win over the Blue Bulls on Day Two of the Craven Week in Middelburg on Tuesday.
EP fullback Curwin Bosch produced 21 points and several great bursts of speed, none better than the last dash that resulted in the match-winning try by Athenkosi Mayinje.
It was a stop-start affair, a game of many penalties and numerous handling errors. Not that it lacked endeavour by the young players, it was just a bit short on execution.
Surprisingly the young Bulls team's set-pieces were shoddy, especially in the line-outs, but their breakdown skills were of a better standard and put the EP team under considerable pressure. Not that the men in red-and-black were overwhelmed - they gave as good as they got.
After early penalties by Curwin Bosch (third minute) and Tinus de Beer (two minutes later), the game settled own into a territorial contest.
Most of the early attempts at running were spoilt by handling errors on both sides.
Bosch slotted another penalty 10 minutes later, before the Bulls were denied what they thought was their first five-pointer - the TMO ruling that there was a foot on the line. However, De Beer levelled matters with a penalty in the 25th minute.
The first try eventually came just short of the half-hour mark - Bulls scrumhalf Embrose Papier breaking around the blindside of a ruck and sprinting clear. When the cover caught up with him, he off-loaded in the tackle to burly lock Ettiene Matthys, who sprinted the final 10 metres. De Beer's conversion made it 13-6.
De Beer kicked a third penalty to give his team a 16-6 lead at the break. The Bulls flyhalf landed a fourth early in the second half, as the men in blue stretched their lead to 19-6.
Bosch pulled three points back in the 40th minute, but hooked a shot at goal badly in the 44th - as the EP team attempted to work their way back into the game.
The EP flyhalf made amends in the 50th minute when he scored his team's opening try - a quick-tap penalty catching the Bulls defenders napping. Bosch added the extras - 16-19.
Bosch kicked his fourth penalty to level up the scores (19-all) just short of the hour mark, but De Beer slotted his fifth minutes later to regain the lead for the Bulls (22-19).
That became 25-19 in the 65th minute, as they looked to have wrapped up the win.
However, there was drama aplenty to come.
Bosch produced one more moment of magic - a sprint down the right wing that brought him within metres of the Bulls line. When the cover defence caught up, a Bulls hand knocked the ball over their own line, with Athenkosi Mayinje dotting down.
It required several looks by the TMO, who eventually awarded the try. Bosch landed the touchline conversion for a sensational one-point win - 26-25.
Man of the match: Ruan de Beer had a few decent runs, while Eduan Keyter used his pace and power to cause the EP defence all sorts of problems. Tinus de Beer, with his flawless goal-kicking show, certainly kept his team in front on the scoreboard for most of the match. Justin Meintjies' high workrate, especially at the breakdown, won his team a number of crucial penalties. However, the undeniable hero of the day was Eastern Province fullback Curwin Bosch, who kept the EP team in touch, not just through his boot, but also with some inventive play that resulted in a crucial try and then produced the momentum for match-winning try.
For the Blue Bulls:
Con: T De Beer
Pens: T De Beer 6
For Eastern Province:
Tries: Bosch, Mayinje
Cons: Bosch 2
Pens: Bosch 4
Blue Bulls: 15 Eduan Keyter, 14 Coneree Poole, 13 Franco Naude, 12 Eddie Fouche, 11 Ruan de Beer, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Peter-John Toerien, 7 Arnold Gerber, 6 Justin Meintjies, 5 Ettiene Matthys, 4 Aston Fortuin, 3 Sarel Smith, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Luyolo Qinela.
Replacements: 16 Jungqo Hennings, 17 Michael Kumbirai, 18 Rohan Goosen, 19 Eduan Lubbe, 20 Juandre Michau, 21 Stedman Gans, 22 Andell Loubser.
Eastern Province: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Athenkosi Mayinje, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Heino Bezuidenhout, 11 Lunathi Nxele, 10 Tiaan Stander, 9 Rouche Nel, 8 Junior Sipato Pokomela, 7 Johann van Niekerk, 6 Stephanus Nieuwoudt, 5 Morney Moos, 4 Stefan Janse van Vuuren, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Robin Stevens, 1 Kaden Prince.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Lupumlo Mguca, 18 Roche van Zyl, 19 Wihan Coetzer, 20 Nathan Augustus, 21 Keanu Vers, 22 Darren Lottering.
Referee: Jaco Pretorius
Assistant referees: Rodney Bonaparte, Oregopotse Rametsi
TMO: Jason Jaftha/Cwengile Jadezweni