GARETH DUNCAN watched inside centre Jan Serfontein score a late try to secure Free State a 14-11 win over the Bulls in day three’s feature match at the U18 Craven Week in Kimberley.
The Bulls players will be asking themselves how they didn’t win this match. They dominated Free State (who fielded 13 Grey College 1st XV players) up front and at the collisions, and they bossed possession. They also had numerous try-scoring opportunities, but poor finishing and decision making cost them. A lacklustre finish to the game saw the boys from Bloemfontein edge ahead through Serfontein in the 67th minute and they held on for a hard fought three-point win which should book their place in the unofficial final for the third consecutive year on Saturday.
The Bulls’ onslaught started early in the first stanza. Their pack, that averaged 101kg a player, had the Free State heavies stuck in reverse in most of the scrum battles and they provided scrumhalf Carlo Engelbrecht with quality service at the tackle point. Along with flyhalf Francois Tredoux, the Affies No 9 spearheaded his team well with the platform given, but they were met by a resilient Free State defence – who seldom slipped any of their 44 tackles inside 15 minutes of the physical scrap.
Tredoux eventually broke the deadlock early in the second quarter before Free State scrumhalf Arrie Vosloo levelled matters with his first three-pointer. It took individual brilliance from flanker Sikhumbuzo Mabuza to secure the Bulls an 8-3 lead at half-time. The lightest man amongst the Bulls forwards showed great pace to pounce on a loose lineout throw then sprint 60m to the chalk.
Vosloo had the opportunity to edge his team ahead early after the break, but only managed to convert one of his two penalties before Tredoux made it 11-6 with his second successful goal kick.
Then came the Free State fight back. Replacement wing Jannie Strumpher made it a two-point game with his first penalty before Serfontein broke the Bulls defence inside the red zone and dived over for the match-winning score. Tredoux had the opportunity to force the stalemate in the last action of the game, but he pulled his 35m attempt from right in front.
Free State 14 Blue Bulls 11
Free State – Tries: Jan Serfontein. Penalties: Arrie Vosloo (2), Jannie Strumpher.
Bulls – Tries: Sikhumbuzo Mabuza. Penalties: Francois Tredoux (2).