The Airlink Pumas put in a strong opening 55 minutes to clinch a strong 45-25 (halftime 31-12) bonus point win over the Novavit Griffons in their Currie Cup clash at the Nelspruit Rugby Club in Mbombela on Saturday afternoon.
After a back and forth start the home side pulled away emphatically at the end of the first half and start of the second, before a strong finish from the Griffons meant they could take heart from a fighting performance.
It was a frantic opening quarter of the match with both sides running in two tries each which saw the visitors leading 12-10.
The Pumas were first on the board as they attacked from a lineout in the Griffons 22m, going one way and back the other for flank Andre Fouche to dive over for the try in the fifth minute.
The Griffons hit back eight minutes later as they set a lineout deep in the Pumas 22m, got the maul rumbling and with the backs piling in drove over for HP van Schoor to dot down.
In the 16th minute the Pumas were in for their second as they tool a quick tap penalty in the Griffons 22m, with eighthman Kwanda Dimaza receiving the ball at pace and crashing over.
Three minutes later the Griffons took the lead for the only time in the match as they set up another lineout on the Pumas 5m, with the home side sacking the maul, only for the ball to be popped to inside centre Marquit September at pace for him to power over the line with players on his back for the converted score.
The Pumas would not be behind for long as in the 23rd minute on attack in the Griffons half, the ball found its way to fullback Devon Williams, on his 100th appearance, with him throwing a dummy, stepping inside a defender and running away to score under the posts.
The conversion from flyhalf Brandon Thomson, his first after three attempts, put the home side 17-12 up.
The Pumas then pulled away with a double score in the 31st and 33rd minutes as they both came from impressive team moves with the ball going through a number of phases and hands which saw flank Anele Lungisa go over, followed by Fouche for his second.
Thomson was on target with both conversions to give them a 31-12 lead, which they took in to the halftime break.
The second half started with the Griffons first on the board as fullback Duren Hoffman nailed a 44 minute penalty.
But the Pumas again ran in a quick double score, as hooker Llewellyn Classen went over after a strong maul, while scrumhalf Chriswill September earned the space to put away inside centre Wian van Niekerk, with Thomson’s conversions seeing the hosts lead 45-15 after 53 minutes.
The Griffons then enjoyed an impressive final 25 minutes of the match as they fronted up well and didn’t allow the hosts another score, while running in two tries of their own.
Replacement scrumhalf Jaywinn Juries showed some good footwork to go over in the corner in the 69th minute, while left wing Domenic Smit jogged over for an easy score in the 74th, as the visitors finished strong to earn themselves a bonus point for scoring four tries.
Airlink Pumas: Tries - Andre Fouche (2), Kwanda Dimaza, Devon Williams, Anele Lungisa, Llewellyn Classen, Wian van Niekerk; Conversions - Brandon Thomson (5)
Novavit Griffons: Tries - HP van Schoor, Marquit September, Jaywinn Juries, Domenic Smit; Conversions - Duren Hoffman; Penalty - Hoffman