The match between the Free State and Western Province on day 5 of the 2017 Craven Week will be important to both teams who may feel that they were not treated fairly when the Craven Week organising committee decided on the last day's fixtures. The Free State is unbeaten in this year Craven Week but of more importance had two convincing victories. Day 1 of the Craven Week they scored a convincing victory against the Boland.
The Free State is unbeaten in this year Craven Week but of more importance had two convincing victories. Many will claim their opponents on day 1 and 3 could and did not really test them.
Day 1 of the Craven Week Free State scored a convincing victory against the Boland winning 81-31.
Boland started with intent and used their opportunities to score slotting two penalties to open up a 6-0 lead. Fre(e State showed a lot of patience absorbing the initial pressure from Boland using their big backline to gain ground. Boland and Free State rather kick at poles than attack showed how close the sides were early on in the game. Boland did not use their advantage in size against the 2nd smallest pack at Craven Week and paid the price for taking Free State on at the back. At the end, the quality of Free State ensured an easy victory with their backline scoring at will.
Four tries by Free State centre Henk Cilliers and a solid showing by flyhalf Christopher Schreuder, whose try, nine conversions and penalty goal earned him 26 points, steered the Bloemfontein team to the biggest victory of the day in the U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week as they cruised to an 81-26 victory against Boland. The Free State outfit produced a solid performance all around and the rewards followed, as they scored 12 tries and limited the Western Cape side to two.
Day 3 of the Craven Week Pumas was beaten 63-20
Free State stormed into the lead after 3 brilliant tries. The Pumas fought their way back into the game targeting the Free State's "weak point" their forwards. Added to that the educated boot of vd Bank enable them to strike back and narrowed the gap to 20-21 at half time. The second half only desperate defence kept the Free State from scoring on several occasions. The Pumas kept in contact with the Free State's score but 3 tries at the last few minutes of the game distorted the view of the outcome. Free State winning a free for all by two very average sides.
The clash between Free State and the Pumas was gripping as the Bloemfontein side build up an encouraging 21-8 lead, but a yellow card in the 22nd minute paved the way for the Pumas to fight back strongly and close the gap 21-20 going into the break.
Free State retained possession and applied pressure on attack in the second half, while the Pumas’ balanced performance kept them in the game early in the third quarter. The Mpumalanga side’s efforts, however, were not enough to stop the Free State from making their presence felt and they increased their try tally to nine, while they limited the Pumas to six for the 63-41.
The Free State's backline must be the most dangerous of them all but did show defensive cracks when their first choice players were not on the field against the Pumas and conceded three tries out wide in that match. Fortunately, no more restrictions regarding team choices barring those of quotas are applicable on day 5. Their forwards surprised all, admittingly not against the top packs at the Craven Week and scrum well in their two opening matches. Their lineouts were adequate taking into account the tallest boy in their starting lineup is 188cm tall. In the loose Greyling, Rampai and Theunissen showed some excellent skill and heart.
Western Province started their campaign against a game Pums side winning 36-19.
Pumas started the game looking to disrupt the Western Province team with physicality. Western Province patient in attack started to control the action. The second half saw Western Province taking complete control of the game scoring almost at will. The second half degraded into a much of nothing with Western Province happy to strike whenever the opportunity presented itself and Pumas trying to narrow the scoreline but ......
DHL Western Province also made a strong statement with a 36-10 victory against the Pumas thanks to their ability to convert their chances into points. In turn, the Pumas struggled to capitalise on their opportunities, which cost them dearly, although they deserve credit for fighting until the end. Such was the Cape side’s dominance, they scored six tries to one by the Pumas, after taking a 19-3 lead at the break.
Their second match on Day 3 IS currently THE fixture of the 2017 Craven Week which resulted in a draw of 13 each against a very good Golden Lions team.
The clash between DHL Western Province and Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions was epic as both sides showed pure determination on attack and defence, which resulted in a tight tussle from the outset.
The Cape side struck first in the opening minute of the clash as Angelo Davids scored in the corner and that proved to be the only points in the first half, as the home team struggled to use their chances and lost several lineout balls.
DHL WP touched down again in the opening exchanges of the second half, through Thaakir Abrahams, but the hosts forced their way back into the clash with two well-worked but unconverted tries by David Cary and Tino Swanepoel to level the scores at 10-10. Kennedy Mpeku for the home team and Quan Eymann for the Capetonians traded penalty goals which saw them tied at 13-13 in the dying minutes, and with neither team able to add to their score, this proved to be the end result.
Although Western Province was completely outclassed by the Lions come scrum time the showed against the Pumas that their forwards are capable of dominating the "smaller" packs. Their lineouts proved against the Lions and Pumas to be outstanding and their loose forwards were more than only competitive against both their day 1 & 2 opponents. Their backline was better against the Pumas and Lions than the opposing side's and their defence against the Lions was first class.
With Western Province to be on top in the scrums and lineouts, Free State only hope of front-foot ball will be in the loose where they will hope to gain quality turnover to attack with their explosive backline. Unfortunately, the Western Province loosies are not only equal in abilities to those of the Free State but could just be slightly better. The Western Province will have to improve their decision making at 9 and 10 to allow their backline to run at the Free State and score some needed tries. Then all maybe will come down to the abilities of each team's goal kickers, Schreuder kicked 10 from 13 against Boland and 9 from 9 against the Pumas whereas Hoffman kicked 3 from 6 against the Pumas and Eymann 1 from 3 against the Lions.
Free State will be out to prove they were hard done by the organisers and Western Province will want to show they should have been in the "final" against the Sharks. Western Province by 15-20 but if it is a close game Schreuder might just be the difference between these two quality teams.