False Bay RFC secured second place (and an automatic semi-final berth in the playoffs) when they beat hosts Brackenfell 38-24 after leading 28-10 at the break.
There was more at stake for the Bay than for Brakkies, as they are known. The last league fixture for both clubs, Brackenfell could not improve on their very credible eighth position while False Bay had Durbell breathing down their necks in the race for second spot and an automatic semi-final berth. A slip-up against a determined Brackenfell would have added a quarter-final playoff to the mix.
The hosts were up for the contest, further motivated by the last appearances of two club stalwarts, hooker Llewellyn van Blerk and centre
Vivian Nel. The two, donned in pink shorts, the Varsity Cup symbol for most valuable player, lead their team onto the pitch for the last time at the end of loyal service to their club. Neither required different garb to attract attention as they caught the eye throughout the contest.
Branckenfell were always going to challenge the Bay and the first quarter hour proved exactly that. The hosts ran straight at their opponents, testing their defence repeatedly, but were repulsed time and again. Nevertheless, their persistence paid off when flyhalf Jeindre Kleinhans split the Bay defence to score under the poles. Scrumhalf Wouter Whitmore converted to give the hosts a seven-point lead.
The Constantia outfit is not one to panic, patience on attack a virtue instilled by the coaches and with an icy, stiff wind in their faces, they knuckled down and played their games. Their forwards were combatant, fronting up to the physicality and mongrel of the Brakkies pack. Behind the Bay pack, scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson sniped at the home defences and opened his team’s scoring with a typical try, his umpteenth this season. Fullback Karl Martin converted.
Minutes later wing Justin Fillies rounded his opponent to score a deserved try, just rewards for his toil on attack and defence throughout the season. Shortly afterwards flyhalf Meyrick Ward and then centre Riaan O’Neil crossed the line to give the Bay their four-try bonus point before the break. Martin kept his conversion record perfect. Whitmore converted a penalty to take his team’s half-time tally to ten.
The Brackenfell pitch, while meeting the minimum standard, is somewhat narrower than other pitches. This frustrates many an attack as they find themselves running out of space as the sideline “tackles-in” as the extra defender. The home side, accustomed to the dimensions, have morphed their running lines to a narrower, more direct style. It is no coincidence that Saturday’s loss was the first the home side suffered at Brackenfell this season, testimony to False Bay’s strike power. Nevertheless, it would be churlish to adapt a team’s playing style to accommodate a pitch, backing your game-plan and team to adapt the wise thing to do, as False Bay indeed did.
With the bonus point secured by the break, all that was required was the win for False Bay to make second spot on the SLA table there’s and this was secured without duress. It was widely expected that False Bay would capitalise on the strong breeze from behind and shut their opponents out. While the result may never have been in doubt during the second stanza, the visitors did not have matters their own way as Brakkenfell refused to lie down with a whimper. In fact, the hosts scored the first points of the half in the twenty-fifth minute when wing Daniel Ohse crossed the line for a try, converted by Whitmore.
False Bay then scored a penalty and a try by eighthman Ryan Olivier, both converted by Martin and Brakenfell collected another try by centre Courtney Cupido, converted by Chester Night.
Apart from players already mentioned, Brackenfell’s Christo Brand caught the eye. For False Bay Johnson, Brian Wood and Thabo Nconge were industrious while replacement centre Ryan Southern revelled in being on the pitch.
The quarter-finals of SLA2018 take place this coming Saturday. Union-Milnerton host Hamiltons while Durbell receive Victorians, who pipped UCT at the post to the final Top Six berth.
The semi-finals take place at City Park a week later.