It was another day of classy rugby action at Grey College in Bloemfontein on Tuesday as the U18 SA Rugby Craven Week and SA Rugby Academy Week launched into full swing with the teams that watched from the sidelines on Monday taking to the field in their first round of matches.

The SA Rugby Craven Week matches were competitive throughout the day with a few late tries alleviating the pressure on some of the sides.

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The Western Province XV, Assupol Blue Bulls, their Assupol Blue Bulls XV counterparts, New Vaal Griquas and Thepa Trading Griffons would be pleased with their victories, which saw them kick off their campaigns on a strong note.

The SA Rugby Academy Week also produced its fair share of entertainment with the Thepa Trading Griffons and Phakisa Pumas cruising to big wins, while it also proved to be a good day for Border, Griquas CD, the Blue Bulls XV, Bidvest Golden Lions Academy XV and Valke.

The day’s action took the Points scored in the first two days of the SA Rugby Craven Week to 414, with 81 Tries, and 498 points and 77 tries in the SA Rugby Academy Week.

U18 SA Rugby Craven Week match summaries:

The Assupol Blue Bulls overturned a 17-10 halftime deficit against Border in an entertaining clash to secure a 35-24 victory. The first stanza was a tight tussle with both sides relying on their forwards to give them the edge, but the Pretoria outfit’s strong second-half display, in which they stepped up the quality of their attack and ran hard on attack, nudged them into a convincing lead as they outscored the East London outfit six tries to four. Nsuku Baloyi (wing) made a valuable contribution as he touched down twice.

New Vaal Griquas survived a strong second-half fightback from Unitrans Limpopo Blue Bulls in a physical encounter to secure a 35-24 victory after leading 14-0 at halftime. In the end the Kimberley outfit scored five tries to their Limpopo counterpart’s four, but their accurate goal-kicking, which saw them land all five conversions, allowed them to build up a comfortable lead on the scoreboard for a morale-boosting opening win.

The Gauteng derby between the Assupol Blue Bulls XV and Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions XV proved to be a gripping affair as both teams threw everything at one another, but the Pretoria side did well to take advantage of their point-scoring chances for a 32-21 victory. Both sides tried to use their forwards to force their way onto the front foot and backed this up with enterprising play by their backs, which resulted in a tightly fought match until the end. The Assupol Blue Bulls XV’s five tries to three by their neighbours, however, sealed the win, with flyhalf Justin Cross making a valuable contribution with his try, two conversions and penalty goal. Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions XV flyhalf Seb Watney earned 11 points for his team, but even this could not help his team a win. 

In stark contrast, Thepa Trading Griffons kicked a last-minute penalty goal to edge EP Elephants 28-24 in a nail-biting clash. It was a physical affair as both teams’ forwards got stuck in, while the backs were solid in support. The Welkom side took a narrow 13-7 lead at the break, but Eastern Province fought back with intent, and they found themselves level on four tries in the dying minutes. Two penalty goals by the Thepa Trading Griffons to add to their conversion, however, cancelled out the Eastern Cape side’s two conversions.

The DHL Western Province XV held on for a hard-fought 18-14 victory against the Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions in a thrilling finale to the day’s action. Both sides threw everything at one another with their forwards and backs, but with the teams being closely matched on attack and defence, the game was always going to come down to the wire. Such was the closeness of the game, no points were scored in the second half. The teams each scored two tries, with the men from Johannesburg converting both, but it was a fine display by the Capetonians’ flyhalf, Kian Meadon, that earned his side the win as he scored a try, conversion, penalty goal and drop goal in a solid display of his skills.

U18 SA Rugby Craven Week Day Two results (Tuesday, 2 July):

New Vaal Griquas 35-24 Unitrans Limpopo Blue Bulls

Assupol Blue Bulls XV 32-21 Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions XV

EP Elephants 24-28 Thepa Trading Griffons

Assupol Blue Bulls 35-24 Border

Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions 14-18 DHL Western Province XV

U18 SA Rugby Craven Week Day Three fixtures (Wednesday, 3 July):

11h00 – Phakisa Pumas v Leopards (A Field)

12h30 – Boland v NWU Valke (A Field)

14h00 – SWD Eagles v Cell C Sharks (A Field)

15h30 – Bizhub Free State Cheetahs v DHL Western Province (A Field)

SA Rugby Academy Week match summaries:

Thepa Trading Griffons outplayed Griquas completely for the biggest win of the day in the tournament, with their 10 tries steering them to a comprehensive 64-5 victory. Such was their dominance they built up a 33-5 lead at the break. Their fine finishing saw nine players cross the tryline, with Thapelo Moshodi (flanker) scoring twice, while Tshepang Morake (wing) scored a try and kicked four conversions for 13 points. Their rock-solid defence, meanwhile, limited Griquas to a first-half try.

The Phakisa Pumas produced a solid performance all around against the SA LSEN team for a rewarding 52-15 victory, scoring an impressive eight tries in the process. The Mpumalanga side raced to a 33-5 halftime lead and continued this fine form as the match progressed to get their campaign off to a solid start. Phakisa Pumas No 8 Tshimo Mogale contributed a brace, with Ricardo Schonfeldt (flyhalf) kicking six conversions for a personal total of 12 points, while they limited the SA LSEN side to three tries.

Griquas CD dominated their clash against the SA LSEN XV from the outset, building up an encouraging 26-14 halftime lead en route to their 45-33 victory. A total of 12 tries were scored in the match – all by different players – with Griquas CD accounting for seven of them. The SA LSEN XV tried hard to make their presence felt, with Luan Gouws (flyhalf) leading the charge with a try and four conversions, but their efforts were not enough to counter the opposition.

Border’s patience and will to attack handed them the edge in their clash against the SWD Eagles, with the side registering a 26-8 victory thanks to their four tries to one. In stark contrast to the East London outfit who backed themselves with ball in hand, SWD opted for goal kicks at times as they battled to breach the defence, and they found themselves defending most of the time. Border, however, used the first half to find their feet as they held a slender 7-3 lead, but they found their rhythm and crossed the chalk three times in the second half.

The clash between the Blue Bulls XV and Thepa Trading Griffons CD was nail-biting from the outset with the team’s neck-on-neck for most of the match. They entered the break tied at 14-14 before the Pretoria side edged through for a 26-24 victory. Blue Bulls XV No 8 Xander Nel and Bongani Ndlovu (centre) each scored two tries to match the four by the central team, but scrumhalf Wihan Strauss’ three conversions to only two by the opposition sealed the win.

The Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions Academy XV also held their nerve in a tightly-fought encounter against Namibia to secure a narrow 22-19 victory, with five penalty goals seeing them through for the win despite being outscored three tries to one. The Gauteng side inched their way to a 13-12 halftime lead, but Cameron Melville (flyhalf) proved to be star of the day as he kicked all the penalty goals and converted the team’s only try to account for 17 of the team’s points. 

The Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions Academy team, meanwhile, went down 36-31 in a physical encounter against the Valke despite leading 19-12 at the break. Valke flanker Bishop Mohono and fullback Jason Edwards each crossed the chalk twice, which helped the side to a total of six tries, while Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions Academy centre Diego Swartz tried in vain to keep his team in the game with his two tries and three conversions for a rewarding 16 points.

U18 SA Rugby Academy Week Day Two results (Tuesday, 2 July):

SWD Eagles 8-26 Border

Griquas CD 45-33 SA LSEN XV

Phakisa Pumas 52-15 SA LSEN

Blue Bulls XV 26-24 Thepa Trading Griffons CD

Thepa Trading Griffons 64-5 Griquas

Namibia 19-22 Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions Academy XV

Valke 36-31 Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions Academy

U18 SA Rugby Academy Week Day Three fixtures (Wednesday, 3 July):

08h20 – Blue Bulls v Leopards (A Field)

08h20 – Blue Bulls CD v Sharks CD (B Field)

09h40 – Limpopo Blue Bulls v DHL Western Province XV (A Field)

09h40 – Pumas CD v Eastern Province CD (B Field)

11h00 – Eastern Province v Zimbabwe (B Field)

12h20 – Free State Cheetahs v Boland (B Field)

13h40 – DHL Western Province v Cell C Sharks (B Field)