It was an encouraging, yet disappointing start to the Currie Cup First Division for the Border Bulldogs as they slipped to an entertaining 48-41 defeat against the Valke in their opening match at the Buffalo City Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was an absolute try fest, with the Valke outscoring the Bulldogs seven tries to six, However, it was the second half when things kicked up a notch, after the Valke had taken a 19-7 lead into the half- time break.
The Bulldogs then fought back well in the second half, even taking the lead in the 48th minute, but another burst from the visitors put them back ahead with some breathing space, which the hosts were unable to reel in.
“I am very happy with the effort that the team put in, it was a courageous fight back in the second half and in the end we got two points out of the game,” said Bulldogs coach David Dobela.
“Most people didn’t give us a chance because of the amount of players that have left us, but these guys fought very well and we just need to fine tune a few things going forward.”
In the first half the Valke took hold emphatically in the first 27 minutes, running in three tries to take a 19-0 lead and it looked as if they would run away with it.
First wing Don Mlondobozi dived over in the right-hand corner, while flank Thabo Mabuza crashed over twice, with flyhalf Warren Potgieter adding two conversions.
All three tries were products of poor handling as Border knocked on at crucial stages which ended up by being punished.
They did eventually get on the scoreboard with eight minutes to go to the break as the wings linked up well with Lelethu Gcilitshane making a good break before popping the final pass to Siyasanga Ncanywa to run in under the poles.
Scrumhalf Bangihlombe Kobese’s conversion was then the final points of the first half.
“We were let down by some of our handling and one or two of our set pieces during the game, but we improved as the match progressed and we just need to work on that over the coming week,” admitted Dobela.
The second half then saw a much improved effort from the home side as they started with a bang as Gcilitshane finished off two cracking attacking moves, the first in the left-hand corner after a strong scrum and the second after a good break from centre Lunga Dumezweni.
Kobese slotted both conversions as the Bulldogs took the lead for the first time in the 48th minute.
However, Potgieter put the visitors back in front with a successful penalty four minutes later, with the Valke not relinquishing the lead again for the rest of the match.
The Bulldogs did score further tries with Ncanywa getting his second, as well as replacement flank Onke Dubase and fullback Sonwabiso Mqalo, while Kobese kicked a penalty and replacement back Xolela Payi slotted a conversion
But the Valke ran in four tries themselves through eighthman Friedle Olivier, hooker Jan-Frederik Enslin, wing Etienne Taljaard and reserve back Errol Jaggers, to make sure they took home a full house of points.
“At half-time I said we need to make our tackles and just take the ball a bit wider and make them defend more, which is what we did and we managed to run in five tries,” said Dobela.
“I have seen enough promise in this match and I think we can build on this going into the next game; we may make one or two changes but I am largely happy with what I have seen,” the coach added.