DirectAxis False Bay pulled off another remarkable feat at the death when they scored a try in the dying moments of their clash against UCT at Groote Schuur on Saturday. The final score was 14-10 after the visitors lead 9-0 at the break.
It was a much-anticipated clash, doubling as a contest for the Mark Jordaan Shield. The False Bay Kids Academy set the ball rolling the day before in their regular friendly against Masiphumalele at Constantia, a sight to behold as forty plus kids gave their all in a display of talent and camaraderie.
The build-up to Saturday’s main event was equally enthralling. The Third XV of False Bay was led by coach Andy Whittaker, playing his final role for the club before embarking on his new life’s adventure in Ireland. Whittaker has played more than a hundred games for the Club’s First XV and is a stalwart of the playing/coaching section for over a decade. His presence will be missed and his farewell was an emotional one.
The much-anticipated main event dawned. The perfect scene had been set by the second fifteens of the two clubs, which the Bay edged out their hosts by two points in a fifty-plus point game, with much of the same expected in the ensuing two halves of rugby.
The Ikey Tigers entered the contest unbeaten and there was more than a whisper that they would exit victorious. They have a strong, balanced team which oozes confidence and not afraid to stand back. Their front row is strong, their locks lanky and athletic and their loose forwards more than just capable. The backline is typical UCT, alive with confidence and the hunger to play rugby.
The “Green Mile” as it is affectionately known, can be a harsh environment for visiting teams. The South-Easterly wind is the sixteenth man on the field, especially late in the day when it develops a chilly bite and the toss is an important factor. The students clearly won that facet as they played into the strong breeze in the opening stanza and their defence passed the test as they held their line intact during the first forty minutes.
The Bay’s slender lead at the break came courtesy of three penalty kicks by fly half Siya Alem. The Ikeys, for pretty much the duration of the contest, lived life very close to the advantage line and the officials punished them accordingly in the first half. Indeed, on three successive visits to the UCT quarter, the Bay found themselves frustrated by the hosts’ penchant to ignore the advantage line when under pressure. During this period, the teams gave their all but solid defence on both sides kept the respect trylines intact.
UCT’s primary source of possession was an impeccable lineout. Locks Gary Porter and David Melhuizen were immense, providing quality first phase possession and exerting pressure on the visitors own throw in. The scrums were pretty even. Veteran prop Wesley Chetty never goes back and featured with ball in hand throughout the contest while hooker Cuan Hablutzel and prop Wayne Losper delivered quality performances.
False Bay were expected to run the ball in the second half, the wind dictating that pattern to a degree but also in an effort to exploit the lack of game time of the students. A number of factors contrived to frustrate this plan. Firstly, UCT know these conditions better than others and were wise to any plans. Countering these relied on competing for their opponent’s possession and restricting the fluidity of their play. They achieved their objective, assisted by an inexplicable neglect of the advantage line which appeared to have faded in the twilight, making management of this area difficult for the officials.
But that is just one facet and to suggest that the hosts lacked endeavor would be remiss. With their lineouts impenetrable and a slew of penalties coming their way, they correctly opted to kick for touch for penalties, one of which was a perfectly executed drive from ensuing lineout which allowed Hablutzer to score off the back of the mall. Flyhalf Michael Brink converted.
Two points behind and their defence holding, the Tigers looked menacing, pinning the visitors in the own half for longer periods as the half progressed. Compounding the efforts of the Bay was a slew of injuries which included two props limping off with hamstring injuries, further evidence of the evolution of the front row forward over the last 25 years, pervious members devoid of hamstrings in days of yore.
The Bay still lead however despite their frustrated attempts to escape their half. This was to change with about five minutes of normal time to play when replacement back Vernon Petersen guided the ball between the posts with a well-executed drop goal.
False Bay upped their efforts on attack but were repulsed by sound Ikeys defence and as full time ticked over on the clock, it appeared as if the visitors would not pull this one out of the fire. That is of course until wing Danie Roux got the ball with forty meters to traverse and three defenders to elude. He rounded his opponent Marcelo Sampson with ease and then dealt with the cover defence to give False Bay the lead, not necessarily victory as the referee’s optional time was still a factor.
Fortunately, the visitors hung onto that lead and bagged the victory, a Houdini-act of note.
False Bay host Union Milnerton at Constantia on Saturday. First games are at 1.30pm and the main game kicks off at 4pm.