DESPATCH threw the EP Grand Challenge rugby league wide open when they inflicted the first defeat of the season on NMMU Madibaz in a thrilling encounter in Despatch on Saturday.
The home side won 18-16 after trailing 16-10 at one stage, hitting back in the second half with a penalty and then a try in the 72nd minute by wing Derek Menane to seal the victory.
The Madibaz, however, were not ready to throw in the towel and poured on the pressure in the closing stages, but Despatch, with the advantage of the wind at their backs, managed to hold on.
The result, coupled with Harlequins’ loss to African Bombers in Zwide, means the top four sides – NMMU, SAPS, Despatch and Quins – are tightly bunched after eight matches, with only a handful of points separating them.
Quins will be disappointed with their narrow 18-15 loss to African Bombers, although the Bombers are never a team to be underestimated.
Gardens signalled their intentions that they cannot be written off with their seventh win in eight games following a 23-13 triumph over Spring Rose. Counting against Gardens, though, is the fact that they have not registered any bonus points in their matches and this has left them trailing the leading teams.
Progress also stayed on the winning path with a hard-earned 38-33 win over bottom-placed United Barbarians, while second from the bottom Suburban gave themselves a lift with 35-26 victory against Kruisfontein.
It was a weekend of success for some lower-ranked teams, because the Grahamstown Brumbies scored their third win in nine matches when they downed Crusaders 17-7 in Grahamstown.