Johannesburg - The Maties won their top-of-the-log Varsity Cup battle with UP-Tuks on Monday evening, while defending champions UCT suffered a dramatic last-gasp loss at the hands of the Madibaz in Port Elizabeth.
The Maties, gunning for a fourth Varsity Cup title after not even making the semifinals last year, claimed a 23-22 win over Tuks in a hard-fought round four encounter at the Danie Craven Stadium.
The score was tied at 10-10 as both sides scored a try each in the first half, but the Maties managed to keep their noses in front, winning the try tally three-two in the end and keeping their unbeaten record in the process.
The lead changed hands on numerous occasions, but a second-half yellow card to Tuks' Deon Helberg (for a high tackle) proved costly, with tries by lock Grant Hattingh and replacement prop Hein van der Merwe proving the difference in the final analysis.
Tuks hit back through a late Clayton Blommetjies try, with flyhalf Wesley Dunlop slotting the touchline conversion to make it a one-point game, but time was against the visitors as the Men in Maroon held out for their fourth win in a row.
That leaves the Maties in first place on the log, followed by UP-Tuks and UJ, separated by points' difference only, NWU-Pukke, NMMU, UCT, Shimlas and the TUT Vikings.
UJ, meanwhile, were in no mood for charity as they romped to a convincing 50-18 win over FNB Shimlas, condemning the Men from Bloemfontein to a third successive defeat. It was also UJ's third successive victory.
Whilst the Maties edged out Tuks by just one point in Stellenbosch, there was plenty of drama in Port Elizabeth as the FNB Madibaz scored a last-gasp 23-21 win over the Ikey Tigers with the last kick of the game.
The Ikeys were playing catch-up rugby for most of the game, despite drawing level at 13-13 at half-time, and they again managed to draw level at 21-21 shortly before the full-time whistle. However, UCT were trapped in their own half and penalised, allowing replacement back Bradley Kretzman a long-range effort at goal for the win, which he achieved, despite hitting the crossbar.
It meant a stunning first-ever Varsity Cup, and Monte Taljaard Trophy Match, victory for NMMU over the Men from Cape Town who, now, cannot afford to lose another game in a bid for semifinal qualification.
Finally, NWU-Pukke racked up a half-century of points, beating TUT by 52-8 in Potchefstroom. Captain Joubert Engelbrecht scored a hat-trick of tries for the hosts, whilst the Vikings celebrated their first try of the season; a minor high point for the Wooden Spoonists.
Meanwhile, like UCT, defending Varsity Shield champions, CUT, also suffered another loss, going down 16-20 to Wits in Johannesburg. In other Shield action, Fort Hare caused a big surprise by beating UWC on their own turf, winning 23-21. Wits have now replaced UWC at the top of the Varsity Shield log.
The Varsity Young Guns competition had a bye this week, but two matches took place in the 2012 Koshuisrugby Championships, with wins for UCT's Steinhoff Cobras (44-10 over Steinhoff Oppidani, from NMMU) and Stellenbosch's Steinhoff Dagbreek (16-15 over Mopanie, from Tuks). - Sapa