A surging second-half performance saw Free State defeat the Valke 68-26 at the U18 Craven Week on Tuesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Valke did themselves proud in a first half where momentum surprisingly swung one way and then the other, but in the end Free State had too much firepower and simply blew the opposition away in the second stanza.
While it is hard to overlook the many handling errors, credit must go to both sides for playing enterprising rugby from start to finish. Free State’s attack was spearheaded by Janco van Heyningen, who posed a threat to the Valke defence whenever he was in possession. The outside centre was directly involved in most of his team’s 11 tries.
The Valke backline was slightly outperformed by their opponents, but they dominated the forward collisions, which kept them in touching distance for a large part of the clash.
True to their overwhelming favourites tag, Free State found themselves 13-0 up under the 10-minute mark. Van Heyningen’s try broke the deadlock before he then hit a gap and drew three defenders to create space for Grey College teammate David Kriel to score. Rikus Pretorius failed to convert on both occasions, but made up for those misses with a long-range penalty goal.
The Valke were forced to spend plenty of time on defence, but they slowly started to chip away at Free State’s lead to go 26-23 up at the break. Livewire scrumhalf Ginter Smuts launched the comeback with a self-converted try, closely followed by a brace from playmaker Ruben Breytell and one from winger Tumiso Linake.
Free State added two tries in between, but still trailed by a point at the interval. However, the Valke lost their way completely in a one-sided second half, with Free State running in six more tries, while keeping their opponents scoreless.
The second-half rout started with Van Heyningen making a storming run from deep before getting a miracle pass away to scrumhalf Keaton Swart to score. The converted try saw Free State reclaim the lead, which proved insurmountable in the end.
Free State’s accuracy on attack was rewarded with further scores by flank Juan Venter, lock Kagiso Marumo, wing Gomolemo Matho, prop Thian du Randt – son of former Bok Os – and a second by Swart during the latter stages of the clash.
Free State – Tries: Janco Heyningen, David Kriel, Rikus Pretorius (2), Rallston Dreyer, Keaton Swart (2), Juan Venter, Kagiso Marumo, Thian du Randt, Gomolemo Matho. Conversions: Mario Vieira (5). Penalty: Pretorius.
Valke – Tries: Ginter Smuts, Ruben Beytell (2), Tumiso Linake. Conversions: Smuts (3).
Free State – 15 David Kriel, 14 Rallston Dreyer, 13 Janco van Heyningen, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Gomolemo Matho, 10 Mario Vieira, 9 Keaton Swart, 8 Dian Schoonees, 7 Juan Venter, 6 Aya Ntaba, 5 Kagiso Marumo, 4 Jaco van Tonder, 3 Naude Naude, 2 Matthew Wessels, 1 Tristan Spies.
Subs: 16 Thian Du Randt, 17 Eddie Davids, 18 Gideon Beukes, 19 Brently Marais, 20 Teboho Rampai, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Mfez Moyo, 23 Kyle Kermis.
Valke – 15 Martin Steyn, 14 Tumiso Linake, 13 Lee-Irwin Andries, 12 JJ Keyser, 11 Erzath Boesak, 10 Ruben Beytell, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Rynard Theron, 7 Timothy van Dieman, 6 Rueben Roodt, 5 Francois du Preez, 4 Reinhardt Venter, 3 Andre van der Merwe, 2 Werner Fourie, 1 Kuhle Malao.
Subs: 16 Donovan Strydom, 17 Marcus Nyirenda, 18 Rehann Baumann, 20 Esihle Mbilini, 21 Dwayne Fourie, 22 Webster Swanepoel, 23 Romano Jonkerman.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images