Province break down the Kings
Western Province managed to weather the Easter Provnce Kings first half resistance to overcome the home team 35-16 in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The EP Kings lost, but they did not abdicate and in fact they won lots at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium - when, after 12 years' absence, there was Currie Cup rugby again for Eastern Province.
They started the 2014 competition and played against Western Province whom they first played in 1889 - 125 years ago.
Eastern Province produced a big and cheerful crowd (over 18 000) on a magnificently prepared field. And there was a time in the first half when it seemed that they would win. There was an incident of great sportsmanship which may just have been Eastern Province's biggest victory on the night.
At the end of the first half the EP Kings led 11-10 after enjoying 70 percent of possession and forcing the visitors into 54 tackles to their own 12. Fortunately for Western Province they tackled so well. It saved them, and then a change of heart and energy saw them ride on to victory on the second half.
In the first half after a stunning start Western Province seemed on a suicide mission. They conceded 11 penalties in the half (to the four of Eastern Province) and had two players sinbinned. A third was sinbinned in the second half, which meant that for 30 minutes Western Province played with 14 players. In the second half they were more circumspect, conceding five penalties but 16 in a match is silly. Had Eastern Province turned the penalties into points they would have been far ahead by the break but instead they used most to kick for positions with a try potential.
At the start Western Province looked as if they would run away with the match. From their first line-out, after Nazeem Carr had won clean ball, flyhalf Dimitri Catrakelis broke and gave to captain Juan de Jongh who raced over under the posts and di his jivey dance. The jivey dance was premature as the TMO could advise the referee that the pass from Catrakelis was forward.
From Western Province's first scrum, on the 10-metre line, they went left and Pat Howard, on in the place of bloodied Kobus van Wyk, came from the right wing, took a pass and raced at great speed to score. 7--0 after 7 minutes.
Then gradually penalties got Eastern Province on top. Scott van Breda goaled a penalty, Manuel Carizza was sent to the sin bin when Western Province were penalised for the seventh time in 16 minutes, and Van Breda goaled a second penalty. 7-6 after 17 minutes.
Two minutes later Luke Watson held the ball on the ground and Catrakelis made it 10-6 after 19 minutes.
A penalty produced an attacking line-out, Eastern Province mauled and Pat Cilliers was sent to the sin bin for stopping the maul illegally. He went off and Carizza came back.
Four times in the match Eastern Province had attacking line-outs. Twice they lost the line-out, as happened for the one following Cilliers's exclusion.
Eastern Province came close to scoring when tall Thembelani Bholi broke and headed for the line. A pass may well have produced a try but he opted to hang on and was unable to evade the attentions of De Jongh, Cheslin Kolbe and Siya Kolisi in his attempt to ground the ball. That led to a five-metre scrum and then a penalty produced another five-metre line-out. This time Eastern Province threw to Bholi in the front and drove the maul over the line for a try credited to Watson. 11-10 after 33 minutes.
That was the half-time score but for a wonderful moment at the right corner post. From a six-metre line-out Eastern Province drove at the line and Watson broke off to try to score in the corner with three Western Province players grasping him. The referee was about to go up to the TMO when Watson told him that he had not scored but had lost the ball in trying to get it down.
That was a great score for Eastern Province.
Western Province were different in the second half. Gone were the efforts to get the speedsters running; instead they attacked with close runners, getting closer and closer to the Eastern Province line till Carr burst through Tobie Botes, recently back from Italy where he earned 22 caps for Italy, and scored. 17-11. Catrakelis was preparing to kick when the ball fell off the tee. Calmly he replaced it and kicked the conversion. Then he kicked a penalty goal and after 51 minutes Western Province led 20-11.
Tim Whitehead cut back in for a short pass and broke as Eastern Province promised to get on top again, but then Western Province scored.
Kolbe kicked a long way downfield. Gary van Aswegen, now playing for Eastern Province, got the ball and ran to his left to start a counterattack but he has reckoned with out the express speed of Seabelo Senatla who caught Van Aswegen from behind. The flyhalf lost the ball forward and Western Province were on the attack. They went wide right where Michael van der Spuy had an easy run round to the posts. 27-11 after 54 minutes.
There was an encouraging sign for South African rugby when Eben Etzebeth came on to the field after a nine-month lay-off through injury. His return was a quiet one.
The result seemed settled and the game lost some of its zest, Catrakelis kicked a penalty, there was a squabble when Watson was cross with Carr for an unobvious reason, Sentala, a Currie Cup debutant, was sin-binned and Eastern Province had another five-metre line-out which they lost.
Then it seemed that Eastern Province had blown a golden chance to score as they attacked down the right but Watson with Van Breda unmarked outside him, decided to score himself and was tackled. But Eastern Province got the ball back and replacement scrumhalf Kevin Luiters dived over in the corner. 30-16 with 12 minutes to play.
Slender speedster Siviwe Soyizwapi had a darting run but Kobe tackled him,.
At this stage the match ground down as there were several stoppages for cramp and scrums that fell down.
The siren went and it seemed that yet again Western Province could not burst through the three-try ceiling but Eastern Province played on and on after the siren. They ran and Western Province tackled till Eastern Province were penalised for obstruction. Louis Schreuder tapped and then Kolbe picked up from a ruck and darted over for the try that gave Western Province a bonus point.
Man of the Match: Despite the tattoos, the beard and the strapping, one would like to give it to Luke Watson for his great efforts and above all for his honesty but he had errors and the squabbling was needless. Our choice is Cheslin Kolbe who was always in the right place, who scored a try and made a try and prevented a try, and had great skill and judgement in all that he did.
Pens: Van Breda 2