Last year’s Varsity Cup finalists, FNB Maties and FNB Pukke, showed they mean business once again with bonus-point victories in Week One of the 2010 FNB Varsity Cup.
The Maties – back-to-back Varsity Cup winners – smashed the NMMU Madibas 68-20 in Port Elizabeth on Monday afternoon, but Pukke will argue that their 35-24 win over double semifinalists, Tuks, was more impressive; especially given the fact that the match was played in Pretoria.
Scrumhalf Andries Mahoney was the undoubted hero for the Potchefstroom-based outfit in the undoubted ‘Game of the Day’; his hat-trick of tries sealing the win after Tuks fought back strongly in the second half to level the scores at 21-21 – that after trailling 7-21 at half-time.
Tuks, in fact, claimed the lead – albeit briefly – but a double blitz from Mahoney gave the Rudy Joubert-coached side their first-ever Varsity Cup win over Tuks.
The Ikey Tigers of Cape Town, meanwhile, avoided their third successive opening-day Varsity Cup loss with a pulsating 30-30 draw against Shimlas – also in Port Elizabeth.
The Shimlas, who are yet to beat the Ikeys in the Varsity Cup, will be kicking themselves well into next week; having led 25-13 and 30-20 – only to allow the Men from Cape Town back into the match on both occasions.
Both sides scored three tries, so perhaps a draw was a fair reflection, but the UCT hero on the day was Varsity Cup debutant Douglas Mallett – the son of former Springbok boss Nick.
Young Mallett, who replaced Matt Rosslee at flyhalf in the second half, kicked well out of hand and at goal, landing two conversions and one penalty goal – the latter strike earning his team the draw.
No.6 flanker Hanno Pieterse was outstanding for the Men from Bloemfontein, his 50-metre try in the second half putting his side ahead by 19-13, but the scrappy 2008 finalists managed to stay in the match and grab two points in the end – the most they have earned on Day One of the Varsity Cup.
In other action, meanwhile, UJ kept TUT winless yet again, the latter having gone through the 2009 season without a victory.
The Tshwane-based side fought hard and finished strongly, but – ultimately – the power of the UJ pack (and their superior finishing out wide) saw them earn a 28-14 victory.
Crucially, however, UJ claimed a four-try bonus point and they are in second place on the log after Round One – trailling the Maties on points’ difference, but just ahead of Pukke who trail them on points’ difference.
Shimlas and UCT are tied in fourth place on the standings, followed by Tuks, TUT and NMMU – but, as we know, plenty can change in the coming weeks.