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Eagles edge Leopards in thriller

rugby22 April 2022 16:33| © MWP
By:Ross Roche
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The South Western District Eagles were grateful for a last-gasp conversion miss that allowed them to edge the Leopards 17-15 (halftime 7-5) in a thrilling Carling Currie Cup First Division clash at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday afternoon.

It was a low scoring but entertaining encounter that saw the match go right down to the wire with the Eagles desperately defending their line but eventually conceding a try after the hooter, which Leopards flyhalf Danrich Visagie was unable to convert, hitting the uprights and watching as the ball agonisingly bounced away to give the home side the win.

It was the Eagles' second win of the competition, having played three games, while the Leopards slip to one win and one loss having played twice.

The match got off to an even start with both teams having early chances, but it took until the 17th minute for the first try to be scored with the home side capitalising on a mistake from the visitors.

The Leopards had a lineout on the halfway line but lost their own ball, allowing the Eagles to take play into their 22m, before flank Mitchell Carstens ran a superb line off the ruck to bump off a tackler and go over under the poles, with fullback Darryn Fortuin adding the extras for a 7-0 lead.

The Leopards hit back four minutes before halftime, utilising their powerful maul from a five-metre lineout, as hooker Robey Leibbrandt dotted down, with Visagie missing the conversion leaving it 7-5 at the break.

The Eagles got off to a flying start in the second half, as good interplay in the Leopards' 22m ended with Carstens receiving the final pass and going over for his double, with Fortuin’s extras putting them 14-5 up after 42 minutes.

A 57th-minute penalty to replacement fullback Gene Willemse firmly put the Eagles in the driving seat at 17-5, only for the Leopards to come roaring back.

Going into the last 10 minutes the Eagles held their 12 point advantage, but the Leopards' maul then started firing again as replacement utility forward Gustav Erlank was driven over for a 71st-minute score and then another to replacement hooker Tiaan van der Merwe after the full-time hooter.

But in the end the match was decided by the accuracy of the kickers as the Eagles slotted their three shots at goal, but Visagie missed all three of his conversion attempts for the Leopards.