Winger Duncan Saal scored a try on the final whistle to help secure a 29-29 draw for the DHL Western Province Under-19s against the Free State Cheetahs Under-19s at DHL Newlands on Saturday morning.
The hosts led by 24-14 at half-time but were unable to register a point in the second half – until Saal’s determined effort in the final play of the match.
Flyhalf Aidynn Cupido made a stunning break from a scrum before finding Saal who dotted down on the left-hand side (on the Danie Craven Stand side), despite plenty of attention from the Free State defence.
Cupido was unable to land the tricky conversion, which would have given the DHL WP U19s a bonus point win, but they deserve credit for stealing the draw after the visitors’ strong second-half performance looked to have denied them in stunning fashion.
The DHL WP U19s had earlier started the match brightly as new starting flanker Iver Aanhuizen went over for an early try, before the Free Staters scored against the run of play through left-wing Dale Koopman.
But tries by flyhalf Aidynn Cupido (a predatory score) and hooker Percy Mngadi (a good close-range finish), as well as a Tiaan Swanepoel penalty goal, saw the hosts lead by 24-7 close to half-time – only to concede a try shortly before the break.
At 14-24 down the Free Staters started the second half on the front foot and two unconverted tries – by No.8 Alex Jonker and flyhalf Julian Jordaan – saw the match in the balance at 24-24 with nine minutes left.
The visitors scored their fifth try from a DHL WP mistake in their own 22, replacement Ruan Wasserman pouncing on the error, and suddenly at 29-24 it was Free State’s U19s who were looking the likely winners (with a bonus point) with just four minutes remaining on the clock.
The matchday clock was winding down at a rapid right, with time seemingly running out for coach Nazeem Adams’s team, but they had one final scrum put-in from a Free State knock on with just seconds left.
Cupido took the ball up to the line and found Saal who dotted the down ball down, but referee Rodney Boneparte consulted his assistant referees before confirming Saal’s try – which, crucially, also secured a four-try bonus point for the 2014 champions.
For DHL Western Province Under-19:
Tries: Aanhuizen, Cupido, Mngadi, Saal
Cons: Swanepoel 3
For Toyota Free State Cheetahs Under-19:
Tries: Koopman, De Nysschen, Jonker, Jordaan, Wasserman
Cons: Jordaan 2
DHL Western Province Under-19: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Eduan Keyter, 12 Edrich Venter (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Aidynn Cupido, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Daniel Maree, 7 Iver Aanhuizen, 6 Saud Abrahams, 5 Gary Porter, 4 Jaco Willemse, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Percy Mngadi, 1 Derrick Marais.
Replacements: 16 Jacques van Zyl, 17 Adriaan Geldenhuys, 18 Jerome Korf, 19 Human Bodenstein, 20 Jacques Oosthuizen, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Justin Heunis, 23 Gerard Pieters.
Free State Cheetahs Under-19: 15 Christiaan Nel, 14 Charl Pretorius, 13 Niel Stannard, 12 Dwayne Wessels, 11 Dale Koopman, 10 Julian Jordaan, 9 Carlos de Nysschen, 8 Alex Jonker, 7 Hendry Slabbert, 6 De Wet Bezuidenhout (captain), 5 Brendan Verster, 4 Bernardus Bosman, 3 Joseph Botha, 2 Robin Stevens, 1 Thabiso Khayne.
Replacements: 16 Erich de Jager, 17 Rohan Roelofse, 18 Wilhelm Ne, 19 Musa Mahlasela, 20 Marco Vermeulen, 21 Ruan Wasserman, 22 Llewellyn Hein, 23 Kaden Prince.
Referee: Rodney Boneparte