The Leopards outscored the Valke by eight tries to seven, including two hat-tricks scored by Edmund Rheeder (No 8) and Eugene Hare (left wing), and came back from 52-29 down to fall heartbreakingly short.
They were upstaged though by a flawless kicking display from Valke scrumhalf Anrich Richter, who kicked four conversions and a penalty goal, and Andre du Plessis (replacement back), who kicked three conversions that ended up making the difference. Leopards flyhalf Schalk Hugo scored a try and slotted five conversions, but his three misses proved costly in the end.
The win meant the Valke finally broke their duck in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge at the fourth time of asking, while the Leopards stay winless and second from bottom of the North Section log.
The first half was a thrilling affair as both teams traded tries throughout to go into the break level.
The Valke opened the scoring in the ninth minute as they intercepted the ball near the halfway, with the East Randers' flyhalf Errol Jaggers chipping and collecting and then swinging the ball down the line where Rodney Damons (left wing) received the ball, stepped inside two players and sprinted away to score under the poles for a 7-0 lead.
Straight from the kick off the Leopards hit back with a great break through the midfield from Shane van Rooyen (fullback), who then found Hare to sprint in for an unconverted score in the left hand corner.
In the 21st minute the Valke then got their second as Keagan Tait (replacement back) threw a poor pass which Coert Cronje (right wing) intercepted to run under the poles for a converted try to go 14-5 up. Four minutes later Rheeder ran over for his first try, while Richter slotted a penalty in the 30th minute, only for Rheeder's second to make it 17-all with eight minutes of the half remaining.
Damons showed great skill to score his second in the 35th minute, with Rheeder then rounding off a 14 minute hattrick with a try in the 39th, as Hugo's conversion drew the teams level again.
The second half then saw Hugo score a great counter attacking try, grubbering ahead and going over for an unconverted score to give his side the lead for the only time in the match in the 45th minute.
The Valke then took charge of the game as they ran in four converted tries in a 17 minute period as thei No 8, Friedle Olivier, went over, before Andrew van Wyk (outside centre) dotted down twice either side of flyhalf Jaggers try, to scorch into a 52-29 lead after 68 minutes.
A breathtaking final 12 minutes then saw the Leopards fire back with three converted tries of their own through Andre Fouche (replacement forward) and Hare with two to seal his hattrick, aided by a 72nd minute yellow card to Olivier, but it was too little too late as the Valke held out for a valuable win.
— SS Rugby Challenge (@rugbychallenge) May 19, 2019
Leopards - Tries: Eugene Hare (3), Edmund Rheeder (3), Schalk Hugo, Andre Fouche. Conversions: Hugo (5).
Valke - Tries: Rodney Damons (2), Coert Cronje, Friedle Olivier, Andrew van Wyk (2), Errol Jaggers. Conversions: Anrich Richter (4), Andre du Plessis (3). Penalty goal: Richter.