Community Cup wrap: Round 3
Heavyweights Roodepoort, Despatch and Durbanville-Bellville recorded morale-boosting wins but it was unfancied Pacaltsdorp Evergreens who stole the show on a dramatic third weekend of Community Cup action.
With 24 of the 40 pool matches now completed, none of the 20 competing teams have as yet booked their ticket to the Easter play-offs in George later this month, although the likely quarter-final field is beginning to take a somewhat surprising shape with just two rounds remaining.
In Pacaltsdorp, SWD champions Evergreens, spurred on by a 3,000-strong crowd, beat Pool D favourites Brakpan 28-24 thanks to a brace of tries by lightning-quick wing Joseph Fortuin and an injury-time drop goal by replacement Leegan Moos.
Evergreens are unbeaten after two matches, with nine points, and a victory in one of their remaining matches, against Old Selbornian (away, 9 March) and Roses United (home, 16 March) will most likely book them a play-off spot. Despite the loss, Brakpan remain top of the group with 11 points, after managing to come away from Pacaltsdorp with two precious bonus points.
In Pool A, Despatch bounced back from their opening-round defeat to College Rovers to beat Villagers Worcester convincingly and move to third behind Rovers and SK Walmers, who made it two from two with a remarkable come-from-behind 39-32 win over Sishen in Kathu.
Pretoria Police also had to dig deep in Pool D to overcome a 28-27 second-half deficit before running out 53-33 winners over wild cards African Bombers at Zwide Stadium in Port Elizabeth. With 10 minutes remaining, the flamboyant Bombers were still in contention when they trailed 39-33, but late tries from Ruan van Loo and Louis van Biljon sealed a hard-fought win for the Bobbies.
Police's main opponents in Pool B, Durbanville-Bellville, recorded the biggest score in the competition so far when they produced a wonderful exhibition of running rugby to beat Free State champions Bloemfontein Police 95-20.
And in one of the matches of the weekend, Roodepoort kept alive their chances of qualification when they secured a nailbiting 27-24 win over West Rand neighbours Raiders at the Rand Leases Sports Grounds.
Roodepoort, trailing 10-9 at halftime, fought back with a 15-point blitz at the start of the second half and then held off a late-charging Raiders to secure a vital four points.
Following a match-threatening torrential downpour an hour before kick-off, the scenes were reminiscent of the famous 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final at Kings Park as various staff members and volunteers attempted to sweep away pools of water.
The home side were unable to string any meaningful phases together in the first half but that all changed at the start of the second, with centre Byron Godfrey dotting down before inspirational captain Gareth Hemingway scored a famous try when he toed ahead a pinpoint grubber from flanker Gerhard Scholtz and then dived on the ball to give his side a 24-10 lead.
But Raiders showed just how dangerous they are from broken play, and late tries to prop Tyson Mulumba and replacement Francois Benjamin produced a nail-biting finale for the 1,500-strong crowd.
And in Kathu, SK Walmers overcame a 14-point deficit to consign Sishen to their third successive defeat and in so doing join College Rovers at the top of Pool A ahead of what is now an intriguing Pool A clash in Durban this coming weekend.
Sishen, who suffered a last-minute defeat to Villagers Worcester and pushed College Rovers hard in round three, and playing in front of a 1,000-strong crowd at the Sivos Stadium, looked to have done enough to secure what would have been a deserved maiden win when they led 27-13 midway through the second half.
But three quickfire tries, including a scintillating effort from former WP wing Zhahier Ryland, kept SK Walmers very much in play-off contention, with their 16 March match in Cape Town against Despatch now likely to take on the status of a George eliminator.
Sishen, who relied heavily on their big ball carriers Jamie Zwiegelaar and Johan Peens, were still in contention when they trailed 34-32 before centre Danwill Erasmus wrapped things up for the visitors with a late score to ensure the Cape Town side would embark on their 1,000-kilometre long bus trip back to the Bo-Kaap in high spirits.