The pacy Danwel Demas took advantage of the fine backline inside him to score four tries and lead the Regent Boland Cavaliers to a 50-20 (halftime 24-13) victory over the Tasol Solar Griffons in their Absa Currie Cup First Division semifinal in Wellington on Friday.
The Cavaliers will now be playing the winners of Friday night's EP Kings/Valke semifinal in the First Division final, in Wellington next weekend.
The Griffons were full of endeavour and scored three tries themselves, but their knowledge of defensive lines and first-time tackling was extremely hazy and the slick Boland attack took advantage, running in seven tries.
Demas had his first view of the tryline in the second minute, but fullback Willie le Roux threw a dreadful pass to the wing, the ball going to ground. It was a surprising lapse by one of the stars of the tournament.
But Griffons scrumhalf Andries Mahoney knocked-on at the resulting scrum, putting Boland back on attack and slick hands by flyhalf Elgar Watts meant the gap was wide open for Demas to burst through and score the opening try.
The excellent Watts converted and then stepped inside and through three poor tackles to score the second try, midway through the first half, again adding the extra two points (14-0).
The one area where the Cavaliers were exposed was at the breakdowns, conceding numerous penalties, with Griffons flyhalf Tiaan van Wyk getting the visitors on the board with a three-pointer in the 23rd minute.
Northern Free State closed the gap to 14-8 five minutes later as their extremely large inside centre, Japie Nel, showed astute judgment with an overhead pass that allowed eighthman Nicky Steyn to stroll over the line after they had been bashing away for some time.
Fine work by scrumhalf and captain Bolla Conradie, robbing opposite number Mahoney at a scrum, put Boland back on attack though, earning Watts a penalty (17-8).
The Griffons will be rueing the fact that they missed, on average, every third tackle they were meant to make, and, from the kick-off, Le Roux burst through and sped into the Northern Free State 22 before his long pass out wide to Demas allowed the Sevens Bok to race away for his second try.
Watts converted (24-8), but the final say in the first half would be the Griffons'.
The visitors won a controversial ruck penalty and Mahoney darted away from a still-bemused defence before his marvellous pop-pass in the tackle allowed Nel to crash over for the try (24-13).
The Cavaliers were quick to strike back after the break, however, with a try that epitomised one of the key differences between the two sides.
The Griffons were often aimless on attack and, when wing Virgil Russell ran across the field and then kicked the ball away, it gave Boland to chance to show just how slick, pacy and clinical their attacking play is. Centre PJ Vermeulen made the telling break as the ball was spread wide, allowing Demas to speed away for a hat-trick try that had an appreciative Wellington crowd quite rightfully out of their chairs.
Eighthman Zandre Jordaan was yellow-carded in the 50th minute for wrenching a Griffons rolling maul to the ground near the tryline, but it did not cost the Cavaliers a single point.
The Griffons tried to up the tempo to take advantage of their superior numbers, but were going nowhere against a cohesive Cavaliers defence. Their disjointed attack and lack of skills also let them down and, from a turnover, replacement flank Thor Halvorsen was able to burst clear and go all the way to score.
Watts converted to make it 38-13, but the margin of the scoreline going into the last 10 minutes did not affect a courageous Griffons team.
An explosive run by replacement loose forward Erik le Roux and good support play by Mahoney saw the scrumhalf take the pop-pass and race over for their third try, which replacement flyhalf Reinard Erwee converted (38-20).
The Cavaliers responded with an extremely well-worked try, their slick backline getting the ball wide, where Demas passed to outside centre Cornal Hendricks, before looping around in support and then bursting back inside to score.
Hendricks, who also had an excellent game, then scored on the final hooter with a blazing run down the right touchline.
Regent Boland Cavaliers - Tries: Danwel Demas (4), Elgar Watts, Thor Halvorsen, Cornal Hendricks. Conversions: Watts (6). Penalty: Watts.
Tasol Solar Griffons - Tries: Nicky Steyn, Japie Nel, Andries Mahoney. Conversion: Reinard Erwee. Penalty: Tiaan van Wyk.