PE’s Progress Rugby Club recorded the biggest upset in the 32 years of the National Club Champs when they beat defending champions Stellenbosch University 24-21 on Sunday.
What makes the win even more significant is that Progress is one of two black clubs who were invited by Saru to participate alongside the 14 provincial club champions at the event.
After trailing at the break and falling further behind as the clock wound down, Progress staged a remarkable last ditch comeback to draw level and then ram the final nail home with a penalty on fulltime.
There were also wins for Pretoria Police, Welkom Rovers, College Rovers, Pukke, Cambridge, Shimlas and the University of Johannesburg. Further matches will take place on Tuesday and Thursday and the tournament culminates with Cup and Plate finals on Saturday.
A crowd of several thousand turned out in brilliant sunshine with the minstrel band supporting Wellingtonâ€™s Roses United adding some colour and noise to the festive atmosphere.
FNB Maties (13) 21
Progress (11) 24
Despite being denied two tries through forward passes on either side of half-time, Progress never lost focus and went on to record one of the most famous victories ever seen on this hallowed turf.
Progress played what one observer termed â€œUitenhageâ€ rugby, a free-flowing, open style reminiscent of that played by the Eastern Cape sides of old. Maties on the other hand mistakenly attempted to take their opponents on up front and forego a running game.
They paid dearly in the end as Progress elected to run everything at Maties in the final 20 minutes. Maties led 13-11 at the break and trailed for a short while at 13-14 before moving into a 21-14 lead.
Progress kept plugging away, however, and with seven minutes to play leveled the scores at 21-all with a spectacular try that started from a tap penalty in their own 22. With a minute to go Maties infringed inside their 22 and fullback Aluzant Munnik held his nerve to land the decisive penalty.
Maties pressed hard in the dying seconds but were unable to breach the Progress defence after a series of penalties five metres out.
Roses Utd (12) 36
Cambridge (18) 40
Roses United had the support of its minstrel band, whose incessant drumming and trumpeting continued unabated for the full 80 minutes and more, but it was their opponents from the Border region who played festival rugby to record a narrow, but deserved, victory.
Roses opened the scoring with a try in the third minute but Cambridge replied with two quick tries to take a lead that they would never surrender. After taking a six-point cushion into the break Cambridge kept up the pressure to force Roses to play catch-up. Roses staged a fight-back in the closing stages, scoring two converted tries in the final five minutes to give the score some respectability.
Former SA Schools captain Kaunda Ntunja was prominent for Cambridge, grabbing two tries in the game.
University of Jhb (36) 69
Bridgeton (5) 10
The University of Johannesburg proved to strong for SWD representatives Bridgeton restricting them to a try in each half whilst registering 11 five-pointers of their own for a comprehensive win. After opening the scoring in the second minute, UJ added another five tries without reply to hold a 36-5 halftime lead.
They added a further two tries by midway through the second half to move the score to the 50-point mark before Bridgeton got their second and final try of the game.
UJ added three further tries in the final ten minutes to complete the rout. Centre Riaan Roux and wing Marco Kotze each got a brace of tries.
FNB Shimlas (36) 50
Hartswater (0) 14
Shimlas gave first-timers Hartswater, the Griquas champions, a baptism of fire when they ran in seven tries to two to register a convincing victory.
The Free State students did most of the damage in the first 40 minutes, running in five tries without reply to take a 36-0 lead at halftime.
Hartswater got on the scoresheet early in the second half but Shimlas remained in control against a Hartswater side that showed great character in the closing stages and never gave up trying.
Pukke (6) 26
Nelson Mandela Metro University (14) 22
The Puk Rugby Institute scored a try on the stroke of fulltime to avoid becoming the tournamentâ€™s first major casualty after a spirited performance by Nelson Mandela Metropole University.
The PE side held sway for most of the match with their loose forwards combining well with the backs to keep Pukke on the back foot.
NMM University took the lead with a try as early as the sixth minute and they led 14-6 at the break after some solid play, particularly from fullback Michael Killian and gritty number 6 Wesley Kew, whose try with seven minutes to play appeared to have sealed the win.
Kew, however, went from hero to villain when he was yellow-carded two minutes later which ultimately helped Pukke to get out of jail. Training 12-22 Pukke scored two tries in the final four minutes, including the spectacular match winner by winger Thulani Nyembe.
College Rovers (23) 38
Brakpan (8) 34
After dominating the first half College Rovers overcame a brave fight-back by Brakpan to record a narrow four-point victory.
Both sides scored 5 tries in a thrilling encounter that saw Rovers holding a 23-8 lead at the break after first falling behind 0-8 and then responding with three well taken tries.
Rovers extended their lead with a penalty early in the second half before Brakpan enjoyed a 25-minute period of dominance in which they scored four tries without reply to lead 34-26.
Rovers scored two tries in the final two minutes, one by lock Dayle Short who weighed in with 16 points, to snatch victory. Rovers will now meet Pretoria Police in the next round of the Cup competition.
Welkom Rovers (6) 25
Jaguars (13) 20
Welkom Rovers were made to fight for every point against a determined Jaguars side that was never intimidated by its bigger opponents. Jaguars made clever use of their possession, moving the ball away from the forwards and bringing their nimble outside backs into play.
This approach paid off for them as they had the better of the first half to change sides with a 13-6 lead after running in two well taken tries. Welkom Rovers enjoyed more possession in the second half and they put it to good use to run in three tries and move into a 25-13 lead as the game entered its final quarter.
Jaguars scored a consolation try with ten minutes to play.
Pretoria Police (22) 51
Nelspruit (7) 19
Pretoria Police proved too strong for Nelspruit in a physical encounter that was played in stifling heat. Police showed a hard edge up front and put their weight and size advantage to great use at the breakdown.
The platform for the win was laid in the first half with Police running in four tries to lead 22-7 at the break. Flyhalf Pierre van Wyk controlled play well from pivot with centres Dewald Pretorius and Heinrich Rademeyer playing a key role in midfield.
Nelspruit enjoyed a brief period of dominance in the early stages of the second half when Police appeared to be tiring. But, the Pretoria side soon found its second wind and restored its dominance to record a resounding win.
Second Round fixtures â€“ Tuesday 26 September
11h30 Maties vs Jaguars, Brakpan vs Nelspruit
14h30 Bridgeton vs NMM University, Hartswater vs Roses Utd
11h30 Univ. of Jhb vs Pukke
14h30 College Rovers vs Pretoria Police
16h00 Progress vs Welkom Rovers
17h30 Shimlas vs Cambridge