East London – Swallows RFC were crowned EC Super 12 champions following a convincing 22-10 win against PE Harlequins at BCM Stadium on Saturday.
The match produced typical cup final rugby and neither side were allowed to run away with the game at any stage, although Swallows worked their way 12-0 half-time lead, as they only just survived the Harlequins second-half onslaught.
Harlequins did well to equalise to narrow the gap to at 17-10, but they surrendered a try immidiately after and that proved their undoing.
Breakdown infringements from kickable positions offered opportunities for both teams in the opening 10 minutes but both team kickers had an off day.
Swallows made their pressure count when they found a gap in the Harlequins outside channel and outside centre Buhle Magazi needed no invitation to streak through for the first try of the match. Flyhalf Aphiwe Stemele missed the conversion in the 6th minute to give Swallows a 5-0 lead.
Stemele made amends later when he dived over next to the poles and converted his own try to take Swallowing was into a convincing lead of 12-0 at half-time break.
Harlequins returned for the second-half with a far greater sense of urgency and were rewarded for their efforts this time as they ran up 10 unanswered points to narrow the gap between them and Swallows to within 7 points.
in the 43rd minute Harlequins sprung an attack from their own half. Despite several desperate tackles, outside cente Sherwin Slater provided the finishing touch with a dive at the corner flag, despite the valiant cover tackle effort from Swallows scrumhalf Anele Zweni. Flyhalf Luan Bosman missed the conversion to take the score to 12-5.
But Swallows scored another try from their hardworking flanker Lubabalo Lento after a solid build up that saw the ball exchanging hands between their back and forwards. Stemele missed the conversion for a 17-5 lead in the 52nd minute.
From the resulting kickoff Harlequins mounted another attack that was rounded off by Slater again for his brace and his team second try. Bosman missed the target with his conversion to move the score to 17-10.
With time running out, the Harlequins mounted one last desperate challenge with several ball-in-hand surges into the Swallows half but they were held in check by near faultless defence. As their efforts continued to fail, their patience ran out and their lack of composure cost them momentum in the Swallows 22-metre area.
Then Swallows put matters beyond doubt when their diminutive scrumhalf ducked under would be tackle to score a beautiful try to cement his place as the man of the match. Stemele missed the conversion to move the score to 22-10.
Swallows took the EC super 12 title for the first time after a magnificent campaign where they registered 7 straight victories without a loss.