Defending rugby gold medalist South Africa yesterday beat the U.S. team 29-16 at the Maccabiah Games finals after dominating the game most of the way.
South Africa opened the game with an early penalty kick by Jonti Leibowitz, which four minutes later was countered by a superb penalty kick by U.S. national team player Gray Van Der Grift. But South Africa's aggressive attacks swiftly paid off when Leibowitz scored two penalty kicks, leaving the score at 9-3 for the South African team at the end of the first quarter.
Although players on both teams seemed worn out after 10 days of intensive playing, the South Africa's John Boyer converted a try after a brilliant break away on the left wing, leaving a disarrayed U.S. team trailing 16-3 behind.
The American team repeatedly dropped balls near its goal line, and the 2001 gold medalists successfully converted a second try by Greg Freeman in a scrum in one occasion.
The U.S. team managed to narrow the score to 23-6 one minute before half-time after Van Der Graft scored his second penalty kick.
The second half saw the powerful South African team continuing to press and frustrate all American attempts to develop attacks. Four minutes in, Van Der Graft again scored a powerful penalty kick from the half line.
The last 20 minutes of the game offered an exciting finish as America's Aharon Davis narrowed the score to 26-16 when converting a try, reviving hopes of a U.S. comeback.
But it was South Africa's talented Leibowitz who had the final say by scoring a penalty kick in the game's dying seconds.
After the game, Leibowitz told Haaretz that "it's a great feeling to be winning the gold medal. The Americans played extremely well today, but we had a fantastic day and a great tournament. We really didn't leave them any space to breath."
U.S. coach Stew Crone said: "I wouldn't want to coach a better team, we came together so well in the Maccabiah. Today we had a few dropped balls at the opening of the game which gave the South Africans an early lead." "The South African had a great day today, the better team won. It is a great rivalry between the South Africa and U.S. teams" Crone said.
In the battle for the bronze medal between Israel and the great Britain, the Israeli team came from behind in the last minutes of the game after Nathan Amos converted a dramatic try to give the hosts a 20-17 win.
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