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21 October 2017

Photos: Courtesy Gavin Withers Photography

It was exciting, filled with tension and intrigue which had the home support chewing their nails until the bitter end but in the end a 13-man False Bay RFC raised their tired arms aloft in triumph as they beat Rustenberg Impala 34-21 at Constantia on Saturday. The half time score was 31-14.


Impala, reigning Gold Cup champions having beaten the Bay in the final of last year’s Gold Cup, carried the favourites tag going into this contest. They were rocked back on their heels in the third minute when centre Riaan O’Neel, wrong-footed defenders and stepped inside to canter over for a twenty metre try which fullback Adnaan Osman converted. It sent a strong message to the tourists that if anything, they were in for a challenge in leafy Constantia.


The lads from Rustenberg were not about to panic, after all they have contested five consecutive Gold Cup and Community Cup (the competition’s previous format) semi-finals. They struck back with a try by lock Tiaan Nel which was converted by Cecil Dumond and the Bay’s lead was negated.


With a big pack of forwards and an almost as big backline revving the engines in anticipation, the Constantia boys were in for a contest, one which stood in the way of their quest to reach this week’s final. The visitors upped the pressure and pushed for the Bay’s line again but were repelled by determined defence, a hallmark of False Bay’s performance on the day.


Impala suffered an injury to centre John St Jerry, who braved the contest for a few minutes before crying off. His centre partner, Marius Duma dislocated an elbow, and after a lengthy break for treatment, he was stretchered off the field. The double-blow in midfield may very well have affected the visitors later in the contest when they perhaps employed the wrong tactics against a fourteen-man Bay, but that is a moot point.


Osman nudged the hosts ahead when he converted a penalty. The try of the day soon followed, minutes before the hearts were wrenched from the chests of the loyal support. Prop Simon Raw received the ball barely into Impala territory and, showing a remarkable turn of pace for his position, made an invaluable twenty metres before offloading to try-machine, Danie Roux to dot down under the sticks. Osman made it a ten-point lead.


With a quarter of an hour of the first half remaining, the home side were rocked by the loss of hooker Vlam van Vuuren, who saw a red card for a disciplinary indiscretion. A hushed silence fell over the grounds, the prospect of facing the reigning champions with fourteen men seemingly too much to bear for them. Fortunately the contest is between those on the pitch and not those outside of the four white boundary lines and the visitors encountered a displace of sheers gust and determination which enthralled all in attendance.


The remaining players on the field and those on the bench set about the pitch for close on an hour, leaving nothing on that turf and entering the change rooms exhilarated but exhausted. If one had to be critical, the experienced Impala team displayed a chink in their armour by not adapting their game plan to the conditions. They would most certainly have troubled the Bay defence far more than they indeed did had they spread the ball wide and not employ their driving with the forwards close to the rucks and mall. Had they done so the Bay may have wilted from the onslaught and chinks in their armour may have appeared.


Yet it was the hosts who scored next, a try by recently named WP Club Player of the Year Taps Tsamondo. Osman added the extra two points. Stung by the score, the visitors struck back with a forty meter try by eighthamn Leon du Plessis, a standout player on the day. His long range effort was ominous in its simplicity and effect and the crowd were left pondering the second half during the break which followed shortly.


Their concerns were intensified shortly after the restart when hooker Braam Muller crashed over for a try, Dumond making it a seven point score. The character of the hosts was tested time and again as they repelled waves of Impala running at their line. Not that it was a one-sided second half, the Bay realized that defensive rugby was only going to expose them to risk, the benefit of the doubt in adjudication seemingly belonging to the champions.


The Bay stood firm and kept their line intact for the remainder of the contest, in fact having the last say on the scoreboard when Osman converted a penalty to give his team an almost unassailable thirteen point lead. Normal heartbeat was not yet allowed to return to the by now emotionally drained local support as eighthman Ryan Olivier was sent to cool his heals for the last eight minutes, the fall guy for his team’s repeated indiscretions on defence.


Again the character of the team was tested and they stood firm against waves of Impala running at their line to earn the right to host the Gold Cup Final at Constantia on Saturday.


False Bay now face College Rovers of Durban at the Phillip Herbstein Fields in Constantia, the team they narrowly beat in injury time in Durban a fortnight before. It promises to be a contest of the highest quality, a wonderful advert for South African Club Rugby.


Kick off is at 2.30pm with the Veterans of False Bay and Helderberg starting proceedings at 1pm. All are welcome.


- Jon Harris

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