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27 May 2017

Photos: Courtesy Gavin Withers Photography

DirectAxis False Bay showed their class to repel a determined Tygerberg RFC and run out deserved winners in a closely contested SLA match at Florida Park on Saturday. The final score was 25-20 after the home side lead 12-11 at the break.


Both team contributed to a spectacle which enthralled the three thousand strong crowd and left the home support somewhat disappointed.


Tygerberg carried the unbeaten tag going into the contest and were prepared for an upset against the defending SLA Champions, who had won three, drawn one against Hamiltons and narrowly lost to Maties in a humdinger at Stellenbosch a number of weeks earlier. The hosts placed paramount importance on victory over their Southern Suburbs rivals which would have given them a much needed buffer on the table. Victory would have endorsed their hitherto successful season and shown their capability to beat the big guns, many of whom are still to come.


False Bay has shown exponential improvement with each outing, victory non-negotiable in terms of repeating last season’s achievements and the scene was set for a clash of the proverbial epic proportions.


It was the Bay who took the early lead through two penalties, one by fullback Adnaan Osman, recently returned from a stint in the United Kingdom, the other the work of flyhalf Meyrick Ward. The reliance on Osman’s dead-eye kicking escalated late on Thursday evening as regular kicker and flyhalf, Andri Claasen was forced to withdraw due to a muscle strain. Ward calmly stepped into the breach as Claasen’s late replacement, delivering a more than solid performance as pivot. Osman’s all round play was as always impeccable but his kicking proved invaluable as the match wore on.


The visitors suffered the first of their three yellow cards when referee Matt Kemp sent loosehead Robin Hendricks to the cooler for illegal scrumming. The experienced prop had been giving his opponent, big Tiny van Wyk something of a hard time in the scrums but was awarded a breather courtesy of a call by the assistant referee, the customary corrective intervention which accompanies scrum transgressions forsaken   Adding to the pressure of a ten-minute personnel reduction, the infringement happened on the Bay’s five-metre line and it was only dogged determination and offensive defence which kept the “Tigers” out.


The passion with which False Bay defended was equalled in their attack, epitomised by the tenacious and elusive play of centre Riaan O’Neill. He turned the smallest gap into opportunity and tackled the biggest of his opponents with sublime courage.


Escaping their red zone, the visitors found themselves on the attack only to have the final pass for a certain try dropped with an open line begging and Tygerberg eluded a seven-point strike back. Minutes later the "Tiere" took the lead for the first time when scrumhalf, Jerome Sight scored and centre Deon Taljaard converted.


Tygerberg sounded a warning when they employed one of their most effective weapons, the rolling maul to great effect and loosehead prop Moegamat Maker crashed over for his team's second try. This ploy was a constant threat well managed by the Bay but would later have a role to play. 


The sizeable home crowd were ecstatic, the Bay’s own big chunk of travelling support silent, but they found voice just before the break when flank Taps Tsamondo rounded defenders with his remarkable pace for the first of his brace of tries.


A breathless first half drew to an end and the teams retired to their huddles to regroup. After the break, with the intensity of the first half and more, the teams resumed their physical challenge. Taljaard had the crowd in raptures as he converted a close-on sixty metre penalty, a stark reminder to the Constantia outfit that transgressions even from this distance would be severely punished.


Minutes later Tygerberg relinquished the lead which they never regained when Tsamondo scored his second try.  Osman converted. The writing was on the wall for the home side. False Bay were in the ascendancy, accuracy of execution still interfering with their fluidity. 


The Constantia outfit had played a wide game from the first whistle, moving Tygerberg's big forwards around, and had their accuracy been tighter the scoreline would have been noticeably different. 


With  five minutes of normal time to go, replacement wing Niyaas Johnson broke the hearts of the Tygerberg supporters when he finished off a well executed counter attack, giving the visitors a 14-point lead. Home support left the stands in droves as they feared the floodgates opening.


Osman received a yellow card for playing an opponent in the air, harsh when the circumstances are considered but the correct interpretation of the law by the officials. Play was stopped for a lengthy period as the tackled player underlined the need for the card as he lay motionless on the pitch while a stretcher was ushered for his departure, a departure which never happened as he stood up some minutes later and continued his role in the match.


From the ensuing penalty Tygerberg formed a lineout on the False Bay 25 metre line. They commenced an impressive rolling maul which resulted in a try and the Tigers found some gas in their tank. Victory was not impossible and with 48 minutes running time in a forty minute half already on the clock, they were pushing for a miracle. Not that the Bay were in any way shell shocked and vulnerable. They were throwing everything at their opponents, their bonus-point fourth try a very real possibility in the dying minutes as they attacked the Tygerberg lines. 


Referee Kemp called the game, the Bay were deserved victors. Tygerberg may believe that they threw the game away but in the final analysis the simple truth is that they placed paramount importance on victory in this fixture; they threw everything they had at their opponents and performed at optimum levels; they refused to capitulate; and yet False Bay triumphed. The Bay absorbed the pressure applied and had their execution been more accurate, the scoreline would have been a lot different. Had they banked early opportunities, Tygerberg would have had to play catch-up rugby and the contest would have been over a lot earlier. 


A sign of a quality outfit is not smashing opponents week in and week out but rather delivering character-full performances like this against quality opposition. This demonstrates the essence of the False Bay outfit.


For the hosts halfbacks Sight and Dale van Schalkwyk stood out. Lock Marvin Fransman delivered a quality engine-room performance, his lock partner Keegan May outstanding before his departure through injury. Hooker Shameegh Allen was solid in the loose and combined well with his jumpers.


O’Neil was False Bay’s most outstanding player while eighthman Ryan Olivier delivered his best performance of the season, immense in all facets. Flank Michael Botha worked tirelessly, doing all the hard graft, while Tsamondo excites whenever he plays. Tighthead prop Ashley Wells was outstanding in the scrum and in defence, while locks Graham Knoop and Brandon Wood worked non-stop, carrying the ball powerfully and securing quality lineout possession, even that of their opponents. Evergreen scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon was outstanding, varying his play well, dovetailing with Ward. Osman was unflappable and replacement scrumhalf Dylon Frylinck brought fresh energy when he entered the contest.


False Bay hosts Belhar at Constantia on Saturday. First matches are at 1.30pm and the main game starts at 4pm.


- Jon Harris

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