MATCHDAY WRAP: Eagles hold off Ixias to secure FNB Varsity Cup semi-final spot

FNB Varsity Cup

FNB NWU beat FNB CUT 35-32 at the Tuks B-Field on Tuesday to book their place in the FNB Varsity Cup semi-finals, while FNB Wits finished their campaign on a high.

The Eagles’ win in the rescheduled Round 7 clash sets up a semi-final meeting with table-topping FNB UCT Ikeys at Tuks Stadium on Friday (19:00), with second-placed FNB Maties taking on third-placed FNB UP-Tuks in the first semi-final (17:00).

Both matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport Rugby (channel 211).

FNB UJ 20 (8) FNB WITS 22 (7)

FNB Wits flyhalf Keagan Lailvaux kicked an 81st-minute drop goal to break FNB UJ hearts in the Johannesburg derby, writes Bronwen Bain.

FNB Wits’ third win of the campaign saw them leapfrog FNB UJ into eighth place on the FNB Varsity Cup log.

FNB UJ had only themselves to blame for the loss as their indiscipline resulted in four yellow cards – two in each half.

FNB UJ flyhalf Jurich Claasens kicked an early penalty before scrumhalf Mpho Kubheka scored in the corner following a powerful driving maul to make it 8-0 after 20 minutes.

However, Kubheka became the first FNB UJ player to be yellow-carded and two minutes later FNB Wits scrumhalf Hlumelo Ndudula dived over for a try, which Lailvaux converted. Claasens was then sent to the sin bin on the stroke of half-time.

An immense defensive effort from FNB Wits saw FNB UJ twice held up over the tryline early in the second half, but the Orange Army finally cracked the defence when replacement prop Kayden Kiewit bullied his way over the tryline.

FNB UJ replacement lock Philip Apea-Adu was yellow-carded in the 61st minute and FNB Wits fullback Setshaba Mokoena got his name on the scoresheet shortly after.

No sooner had FNB UJ been restored to 15 men than centre Indiphile Tyeda was sent to the sin bin and like clockwork FNB Wits scored through Ndudula to take a 19-15 lead.

Winger Nkondlo Radebe got FNB UJ back in front when he rounded off a good try, but they conceded a late penalty which allowed FNB Wits to attack again and set Lailvaux up in the pocket for a drop goal. The flyhalf made no mistake to turn Johannesburg royal blue.

FNB Player That Rocks: Hlumelo Ndudula (FNB Wits)

FNB UJ – Tries: Mpho Kubheka, Kayden Kiewit, Nkondlo Radebe. Conversion: Jurich Claasens. Penalty: Claasens.
FNB Wits – Tries: Hlumelo Ndudula (2), Setshaba Mokoena. Conversions: Keagan Lailvaux (2). Drop goal: Lailvaux

FNB CUT IXIAS 32 (15) FNB NWU EAGLES 35 (25)

FNB NWU withstood a brave comeback from FNB CUT to secure a place in the semi-finals, writes Dan Lombard

The Ixias outscored their opponents by five tries to three, but flyhalf Charles Williams missed three conversions, while opposite number Niven Petersen made no mistake with three conversions and four penalty goals.

In what was effectively a 'quarter-final' showdown, it was the Ixias who started the match with fire in their bellies as they frustrated the Eagles.

Early penalty goals by Williams and Petersen were followed by a try to FNB CUT lock Brendon Fortuin, who strode over with his vibrant red scrum cap only slightly less colourful than his celebration.

Ixias hooker Janus Venter’s 11th try of the campaign saw him break the record for most FNB Varsity Cup tries in a season, but the Eagles then flipped the switch with lock Jeandré Leonard bagging a brace, which included a magnificent point-of-origin try.

Petersen knocked over both conversions and landed two penalties to push out the score to 25-15 at half-time.

Ixias inside centre Heino Bezuidenhout pulled back a try 10 minutes into the second half as they attempted to stage a comeback, but the Eagles put paid to their initial attempt when flank Ruben Dreyer scored a try, with Petersen kicking the conversion and adding a penalty.

The men from Bloemfontein continued unabated, though, as Venter earned his brace before replacement scrumhalf Xander Botha showed immense strength to spin, tuck and dive over the line despite the attention of several purple defenders. 

Ultimately, it was not to be for the Ixias as the Eagles saw out the remaining time to book their spot in the semi-finals. 

FNB Player That Rocks: Jeandré Leonard (FNB NWU Eagles)

FNB CUT Ixias – Tries: Brendon Fortuin, Janus Venter (2), Heino Bezuidenhout, Xander Botha. Conversions: Charles Williams (2). Penalty: Williams.
FNB NWU Eagles – Tries: Jeandré Leonard (1x5, 1x7), Ruben Dreyer. Conversions: Nivan Petersen (3). Penalties: Petersen (4).

2021 FNB Varsity Cup teams (Round 7 revised)

FNB Varsity Cup fixtures and logs

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Photos: Catherine Kotze/Christiaan Kotze/Varsity Cup