The Free State opened their 2018 U18 Craven Week campaign with a hard-fought 38-21 win over the Blue Bulls at Brug Straat at Paarl Boys’ High on Tuesday afternoon.
While the score-line looks quite flattering, the boys from the City of Roses only arrived for the game in the second half and trailed 15-7 at the half time break.
The side from Pretoria needed just two minutes to open the scoring in Paarl, after the flyhalf, Regard Roets, sent a penalty sailing through the uprights.
A minute later he nearly doubled the lead with a second penalty, however, he pulled the shot on goal and it was also left short. They didn’t now matter too much as the scrumhalf, Bernard van der Linde, crossed the whitewash in the 5th minute, and Roets converted.
Free State battled to find any rhythm in the game and conceded numerous penalties, allowing the lads in blue to call the shots.
The Free State had a real battle in the scrum, and the Bulls loosehead, Dewald Donald, totally outclassed the tighthead in white, Albertus Annandale.
The Free State flyhalf, Zander du Plessis, was unable to get his side on the board when he missed a fairly regulation penalty in the 13th minute and his kick woes did not end there.
De Wet Marais eventually managed to give the side from Bloemfontein their break when he collected a loose ball, beat a couple of defenders and managed to off-load to Richard Kriel for their opening score.
The Bulls had the last laugh in the half when the SA Schools outside centre, Diego Appollis, rounded off a break by his flyhalf, Roets.
Kriel drew first blood in the second stanza when the put through a grubber and rounded off his over efforts for his brace.
The contender for SA Schools colours this year, Wycelf Vlitoor, who had below par opening match, redeemed himself, by selling a dummy or two, to crash over in the 51st minute to make it a one point game.
Kriel continued his good work in the game and evade numerous tackles to ultimately send the winger Lehlohonolo Litabe over for their fourth try and the lead for the first time in the game. This opened the floodgates and saw Willem Steenkamp and the loosehead prop, Jan-Hendrik Wessels also crashing over for tries.
Free State: Tries – Richard Kriel 2, Wyclef Vlitoor, Lehlohonolo Litabe, WJ Steenkamp, Jan-Hendrik Wessels Conv. – Zander du Plessis 4.
Blue Bulls: Tries – Bernard van der Linde, Diego Appollis Conv. – Regard Roets 1 Pen. – Roets 3
Other results from day two:
Golden Lions XV 15-57 Western Province XV, Valke 63-24 Leopards, Boland 61-14 Griquas, Sharks 46-28 SWD. – MORGAN PIEK