Griquas won their first match of the season, when they edged the Pumas 43-33 in a 10-try thriller at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday.
While the teams scored five tries each, Griquas held on in the face of an amazing second-half comeback by the Pumas - who trailed 7-34 at the break and scored four scintillating second-half tries.
The win for Griquas came after a draw (with Western Province) and a demoralising (11-49) loss (against the Lions) in the opening rounds. The Pumas are still looking for their first win, after four-point (to the Lions) and one-point (top the Sharks) defeats in their opening matches.
The Pumas conceded a number of penalties at the breakdown, especially in the first quarter, which forced the referee to chat to the home team about repeated infringements - before issuing a yellow card to centre Tiaan Marx. Their set pieces also presented problems, especially the line-outs where Griquas won a number of turnovers.
Griquas not only played the game at a higher tempo, they were also far more accurate in their execution in the first half.
However, the roles were complete reversed after the break - the Pumas showing all the energy and intent, while Griquas found themselves at the wrong end of the referee's whistle and visiting captain Jonathan Mokuena also spending 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Inside the first three minutes the Pumas were presented with a scoring opportunity, when Griquas were penalised at the tackle, but Tiaan Marx failed to find the target. Minutes later they had a second shot at goal, for another offence at the breakdown, and this time Coenie van Wyk was short of the mark.
The home team was made to pay for the earlier misses when Riaan Viljoen put Griquas into the lead with a long-range penalty in the ninth minute - the result of a high tackle.
Van Wyk immediately made amends, when from the restart he beat a feeble attempted tackle from Earl Rose and sprinted over for the opening try. Marx added the conversion and the Pumas had a 7-3 lead.
In the 14th minute Rose had a chance to narrow the gap, but he missed the target from close range, before Richard Lawson went over on the right corner from the 22-metre restart. Again Rose missed the target, but the try was good enough to give the visitors a one-point (8-7) lead.
In the 25th minute that became a 13-7 lead, when centre Jean Stemmet glided through an outside gap to score the second try. Again Rose, who had just one successful shot at a goal and was eventually replaced as kicker, failed to find the target.
And on the half-hour mark the Pumas were made to pay dearly for their lack of discipline - not only was centre Tiaan Marx sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements at the breakdown, but Griquas wing Dusty Noble went over for the third try. And Rose finally managed to get a kick over the crossbar, to give the visits a healthy 20-7 lead.
Five minutes later the visitors stretched the lead even further - centre Jean Stemmet going over, after hooker Ryno Barnes strolled through a gap and sprinted 30 metres, before being brought down just metres from the line - Stemmet collecting to flop over. Rudi Vogt, on for the injured Lawson, took over the kicking duties and his successful conversion made it 27-7.
Just before the half-time break the Griquas again made their numerical advantage count, Barry Geel going over in the right corner and Vogt adding the extras to give the visitors a handsome 34-7 lead going into the break.
The Pumas knew they needed to score first, and early, after the break and inside the first five minutes Marx was over the line. However, the TMO ruled that the ball was held up and at the subsequent scrum an early engagement handed Griquas a free kick - another golden chance wasted by the home team.
Two minutes later JW Jonker was over, a brilliant counter started by Deon Scholtz - who hacked the ball ahead a couple of times, after Rose had conceded possession in a game in which he contributed more for the opposition than his own team - and Van Wyk slotted the conversion to give the Pumas a ray of hope at 14-34.
A Vogt penalty, with just less than half-an-hour remaining, meant the Griquas had a 23-point advantage - requiring the home team to score at least four tries.
It was now the turn of Griquas to find themselves on the wrong side of the referee, captain Jonathan Mokuena sin binned for repeated infringements close to the line. And from the resulting penalty, which became a line-out and then a maul, captain Corné Steenkamp went over. Marx could not add the extras, but at 19-34 there was still some hope.
A Vogt penalty made it 37-19.
Going into the final quarter the Pumas closed the gap again, replacement Hendrik van der Nest going over after some slick handling - a move that started with another turnover near halfway. Marx's conversion made it 26-37 - meaning they were now just two converted tries away from taking the lead.
With just 10 minutes remaining a breakdown allowed Vogt to stretch the lead to 14 points, 40-26.
There was still hope, but time was beginning to run out for the home team.
With five minutes left on the clock a couple of penalties - the second a quick tap-'n-go - saw Deon Scholtz go over. The TMO ruled that it was grounded short. From the resulting scrum - which was reset once - Van der Nest went over after a pick-'n-go. Marx made it 33-40, with just on two minutes remaining.
Rose attempted two late drop-goals, both from in front and the first woefully wide, as Griquas played down the clock and held on for a great win. Rose's second drop-goal, which wobbled over, robbed the Pumas of a second bonus point.
For the Pumas there was the scant consolation of one bonus points - for scoring four or more tries.
Man of the match: Tiaan Marx, Christo le Roux, Corné Steenkamp, Marthinus van der Westhuizen, and Hendrik van der Nest all played a huge role in the Pumas' powerful second-half fightback. Riaan Viljoen, Barry Geel, Dusty Noble, Jonathan Mokuena, Davon Raubenheimer, Ryno Barnes and Rudi Vogt were all prominent for the visitors, but our vote goes to Griquas flank Justin Downey for the manner on which he made a real nuisance of himself at the breakdown and his high workrate on defence.
For the Pumas:
Tries: Van Wyk, Jonker, Steenkamp, Van der Nest 2
Cons: Marx 3, Van Wyk
Tries: Lawson, Stemmet, Noble, Stemmet, Geel
Cons: Rose, R Vogt 2
Pens: Viljoen, Vogt 2
Yellow cards: Tiaan Marx (Pumas, 29 - repeated infringements at the breakdown), Jonathan Mokuena (Griquas, 58 - repeated infringements at the breakdown)
Pumas: 15 MJ Mentz, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Tiaan Marx, 11 Shandré Frolick, 10 Coenie van Wyk, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Christo le Roux, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corné Steenkamp (captain), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Willem Serfontein, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Eduan van der Walt, 19 Reginald Kember, 20 Hendrik van der Nest, 21 Dewald Pretorius, 22 Carl Bezuidenhout.
Griquas: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Richard Lawson, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Dusty Noble, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (captain), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Jean Botha, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Burger Schoeman, 20 Warren Malgas, 21 Matthew Rosslee, 22 Rudi Vogt.
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Linston Manuels
TMO: JC Fortuin
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