The Border Bulldogs continued their resurgence in the Currie Cup First Division as they claimed a heart-stopping 26-25 win over the Windhoek Draft Welwitschias at the BCM Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It took an unconverted try on the full-time hooter to eighth man Sokuphumla Xakalashe to see the Bulldogs sneak an exciting come-from-behind win to make it two wins in their last three matches, and was the perfect way to sign off their 2017 season at home.
“I am thrilled to see us get over the line, especially since it was our last game at home this season,” said Bulldogs coach David Dobela.
“It was a dull game, but a win is a win and the guys are showing an improvement in every match, especially after the bad start we had in the competition.
“We were better than the Welwitschias, but I felt we let them off the hook, especially in the first half when we could have finished off the game.”
The Bulldogs have moved above the Welwitschias to sixth on the log on 14 points and with just one game left in the first division group stages, they could still tie with the fourth-on-the-log Boland Kavaliers if results in the final round went their way. However, with a massive points difference between the two sides, any chance of reaching the quarterfinals has officially gone out the window.
Their last game of the season will also be against the unbeaten defending champs, the Down Touch Griffons in Welkom and it will be an extremely tough game for the Bulldogs to even try and pick up a win.
“I am very happy with the way the guys have turned around their season – after three losses in a row, including a big defeat against Boland, we were in very bad place,” admitted Dobela.
“But we have now won two of our last three and pushed the Leopards the whole way, so it has been a brilliant response.
“I believe we are good enough to challenge anyone in this league and I am looking forward to see if we can go and be the first team to beat the Griffons at home.”
In the match, a fantastic forward effort in the second half when Blake Kyd came onto the pitch after the break, saw the Bulldogs pack start to dominate the Welwitschias. This laid the platform for a lot of the good work in the second half and a monster scrum in the dying seconds set the Bulldogs up for the winning try.
“We scrummed very well today, we dominated the Welwitschias there and it won us the game in the end,” said Dobela.
“My plan was to send Blake on in the second half … he is back from injury and looking fit and I knew he would respond well and it paid off.”
In the match, the Bulldogs took a sixth-minute lead after a quick counter-attack ended with winger Siyasanga Ncanywa dotting down under the posts and scrumhalf Bangihlombe Kobese slotting the easy conversion for a 7-0 lead.
However, the Welwitschias struck back in the 26th minute when left wing David Philander intercepted a loose pass to run in under the poles for a converted try as the teams went into the break locked at 7-all.
A crazy 13-minute spell at the start of the second half then saw the Bulldogs score two tries through captain Siphosethu Tom and replacement flank Athenkosi Manentsa, with Kobese converting both, while the visitors saw Philander run in his hattrick and fullback Mahco Prinsloo kick one conversion and a penalty as the Welwitschias went up 22-21.
Another Prinsloo penalty in the 68th minute then put them 25-21 ahead, with the final second drama then seeing the Bulldogs emerge victorious.
“We believe we are the fittest team in this league, so I always knew that we were in with a chance at the end and the guys just had too much for the Welwitschias in the end,” claimed Dobela.