FNB CUT fought back strongly to snatch a late win over FNB Fort Hare in Alice to go top of the Varsity Shield log, whilst - in other action - FNB UWC beat FNB Wits in Bellville to keep their play-off hopes alive.
In an intense match at the Davidson Rugby Field in Alice the home team gave an explosive performance in the first half, and took an 18-11 lead into the break.
Flank Billy Dutton got over for a pushover try and speedy wing Vuyo Mboto broke out to score from long range in reply to an early try from physical CUT lock Gavin Annandale.
After three penalties early in the second period from the reliable boot of flyhalf Qondani Katywa, it seemed as though Fort Hare were headed for a famous victory.
CUT had scored an unconverted try through their captain, nippy scrumhalf Inus Kritzinger, but at 24-16 with 20 minutes left it seemed as though Fort Hare had done enough to seal their second win of the competition.
However, CUT showed the value of having a well-conditioned team as they hit back with two late tries through replacement hooker Deon Gouws and wing Alec Mhlanga to take the game 30-24 and break a few hearts in Alice.
The Men from Bloemfontein now have a three-point lead at the top of the Varsity Shield log with a game in hand over second-placed Wits, while Fort Hare will be left wondering what could have been once again.
In Bellville, UWC controlled the game throughout and secured a solid 19-11 victory over Jo'burg side Wits, which puts the Cape-based side right back in contention for a valuable spot in the play-off; and, thereby, the chance to perhaps play Varsity Cup rugby in 2012.
Wits, who started the game on top of the log, were punished regularly by the steady goalkicking of UWC flyhalf Ambrose Steyn who slotted four penalties and a conversion on the night.
The visitors did manage to get a late try, with wing Nkuli Gamede crossing the line with two minutes left on the clock, but it was too little too late as UWC ran out victors and crucially denied their opponents a losing bonus point.
Just four points now separate the two teams on the log as the Varsity Shield heads for an almighty scrap for places in the coveted play-off in the next few weeks.
The scorers and teams from Monday, March 7:
FNB UWC 19 FNB WITS 11
Pens: Steyn 4
Pens: Lizamore 2
FNB UWC: 15 Ambrose Steyn, 14 Donovan Williams, 13 Justin McKay, 12 Adrian Herman, 11 Anthony Volminck, 10 Charl van Vollenhoven, 9 Denzil Willemse, 8 Heinrich Marcus, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Lwandile Makibi, 5 Juan Paul Kellerman (captain), 4 Calvin Hendricks, 3 Zolani Faku, 2 Charlie van Jaarsveld, 1 Kelvin de Bruyn.
Replacements: 16 Curtly de Kock, 17 Kieran James, 18 Griffith Temba, 19 Garth Arendse, 20 Fredrick Muller, 21 Cornel Beukes, 22 Kenwin Weiner, 23 Glenn Steenberg.
FNB Wits: 15 Juandre Kruger, 14 Nkuli Gamede, 13 Brendon Lizamore, 12 Heinke Hartdegen, 11 Riaan Arends, 10 Greg Blom, 9 Brent Crossley, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Shai Korb, 6 Ryan Odendaal, 5 Katlego Ntsie, 4 Brendan Whyte, 3 Paulo Ferreira, 2 Katlego Kgame, 1 Rory Anderson.
Replacements: 16 Tyrell Tintinger, 17 Devin Montgomery, 18 Charles Baggott, 19 Clayton Redford, 20 David Turnbull, 21 Emmanuel Mphande, 22 Rudolf Prinsloo, 23 Clayton Allem.
Referee: Gerrie de Bruin
FNB FORT HARE 24 FNB CUT 30
For Fort Hare:
Tries: Dutton, Mboto
Pens: Katywa 4
Tries: Annandale, Kritzinger, Gouws, Mhlanga
Cons: Myburgh 2
Pens: Myburgh 2
FNB Fort Hare: 15 Ayanda Mateisi, 14 Vuyo Mboto, 13 Thabo Ratyana, 12 Lukhanyiso Magele, 11 Garth van Rayner, 10 Qondani Katywa, 9 Sibabalwe Mtsulwana, 8 Thando Ndondo (captain), 7 Nkosikhona Nofuma, 6 Billy Dutton, 5 Sokhana Mkona, 4 Itumeleng Mokae, 3 Xola Mapapu, 2 Vuyisani Mavuso, 1 Luvuyo Kama.
Replacements: 16 Luzuko Nyabaza, 17 Sive Ntwasa, 18 Mzwandile Yalezo, 19 Aphelele Maho, 20 Sichangele Mateza, 21 Buntu Ntlanzi, 22 Lukhanyiso Fana, 23 Lwando Mabenge.
FNB CUT: 15 Nhlanganiso Sibanda, 14 Alec Mhlanga, 13 Jaco Oosthuizen, 12 Egan Gysman, 11 Wally Cordier, 10 Jannie Myburgh, 9 Inus Kritzinger (captain), 8 Juan Hugo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Francois Harvey, 5 Gavin Annandale, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Werner Pretorius, 2 Danie Smith, 1 Rudi Britz,
Replacements: 16 Deon Gouws, 17 Rudi Fuls, 18 Herzon Amill, 19 Frans Sisita, 20 Leon Pretorius, 21 Frederick Badenhorst, 22 PW Roux, 23 Petri Coetzee.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen