GARDENS rose to the occasion to clinch the Eastern Cape Super 12 club rugby title and the bragging rights with a hard-fought 16-10 victory over Progress at the Uitenhage Central Field at the weekend.
After convincingly winning all their clashes on the road to Saturday’s final, Progress went into the encounter as favourites.
But Gardens had other ideas and made their intentions known in the early stages, taking the lead through a penalty by reliable flyhalf Aluzant Munnik.
The stadium was buzzing with fans who sang throughout the titanic clash that was also watched by Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula, EP Kings boss Cheeky Watson and player Luke Watson.
For most of the opening half, neither side looked like they would cross the tryline as both teams’ defences stood firm, but about five minutes before half time, impressive Gardens scrumhalf Kelvano King dived over.
This was after flank Diego Williams sliced through the Progress defence like a hot knife through butter before off-loading to King. Munnik converted to take Gardens to a 10-0 lead at the interval.
The Rosedale outfit started the better side in the second half and increased their lead to 13-0 through a Munnik drop goal from the 22m line.
Progress, who also finished as silver medallists last season, came close to scoring after driving mauls, but Gardens’ defence stood firm and forced them to commit errors at crucial stages.
With Munnik receiving medical attention for a bloody nose, King stepped up and successfully kicked a penalty.
Progress pushed forward with eighth man Athi Gans who had carried the ball well and gained much-needed territory. One of his runs resulted in an unconverted try by wing Raymond Daries, the first of his two tries.
With Gardens seeming to run out of steam, Daries gave the home side hope when he chased a grubber kick to complete his brace that got the whole Progress bench on their feet eight minutes from time.
But Progress fullback Zweli Sodladla, who also missed three penalties in the opening half, failed to convert.
African Bombers edged East London Police 34-24 to claim the bronze medal.
Bombers’ victory ensured EP sides continue dominating their Border counterparts.
ýMeanwhile, Cell C Community Cup champions Gap Despatch ran in four tries against Mossel Bay Barbarians to register their third consecutive victory in Despatch on Saturday.
The visitors started the game well and managed to limit Despatch to an 8-0 halftime lead.
Once the champs got going there was no stopping them as they ran riot to claim the 31-5 bonus point victory that ensured they qualified for the Easter playoffs. – Mkhululi Ndamase