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1 April 2017

Photos: Courtesy Gavin Withers Photography

Fierce rivals DirectAxis False Bay and Hamiltons played to a draw in their Super League A match at Green Point on Saturday. The final score was 10-10 after the hosts lead 7-0 at the break. This was the second consecutive year that the teams have drawn in their SLA matches, indicating the intense rivalry present.


The travelling Bay support were feeling confident after the resounding victory of their Second XV over the vaunted Hamiltons dirt trackers, defending Second League champions of 2016. The Bay’s second-stringers warmed to the task, delivering a five-try feast of running rugby that set an expectant tone for the Constantia club.


It was fair representation, the only difference being that DirectAxis False Bay neglected to convert their complete domination in the programme header, and as the match progressed, the resolute, airtight Hamiltons defence blunted the Bay attack and frustrated their supporters no end.


It was the Atlantic Seaboard outfit which opened the scoring through a try by right wing Brendon Asher-Wood, a score so smooth in execution a contrasting sense of foreboding and expectation settled on the stands. Hamiltons had kept an impressive series of phase play going as their forwards took the ball up, eventually creating the space for the speedy wing to scythe through and score close to the uprights. Flyhalf Shane Vallender converted and the goal served as a wake-up call for the visitors.


That was to be one of the few real times that the hosts enjoyed any domination over their guests for the rest of the contest. The Bay seemed to wake up from their slumber and set about playing their game. They played a lot of rugby, in colloquial rugby parlance. They enjoyed more than 70% possession and territorial advantage for the remaining hour and a quarter of the contest.

Their rucks and mauls were efficient, their scrums awesomely powerful, Wesley Chetty, Roan Dalzell and Ashley Wells putting their opponents Siphiwekuhle Bakeni, Robbie Trueman and Jonathan Raphael to the sword, exerting heaps of pressure on them especially on their own put-in. The Bay lineouts were a source of quality possession, the young Dalzell combining with his jumpers as if they had been playing together for years. Not content with dominating their own throw in, the Bay jumpers pilfered a number of the Hamiltons put ins, adding to the home side’s possession woes.


Yet in a match such as this where the scoreline indicates a close contest, it is almost incredible that one side can be so dominant yet trail on the scoreboard for all but a few minutes. It is no understatement to say that False Bay ruled in every phase and that possibly the only area that Hamiltons enjoyed the edge was through their superb defence.


While coaches are wont to await the match statistics which emanate from the analysis before commenting, the only statistic that a spectator and indeed the SLA log co-ordinators place any importance on is the score and that showed that the spoils were shared. However, to those on the pitch the truth is known without a word being spoken. On the one hand the visitors squandered numerous scoring opportunities through inaccurate passing, compounded by a remarkable defensive effort by Hamiltons. Their scramble defence in particular was impenetrable, their efforts off set pieces rocksteady. The task of taking the Bay ball up seemed to rest with the centres, easier to defend when those on the inside are not drawn in and can shift out.


To imply that the hosts defended as their only strategy would be remiss. While it was a standout feature of their game, they did play some rugby but being starved of possession makes it difficult for any team to attack and the Bay deserve kudos for their ball retention and willingness to run.


Hammies captain Niel Cleghorn delivered his standard high quality game while fullback Marlo Welch looked dangerous on attack. Shane Vallender started at flyhalf in an apparent ploy to shore up the ten-channel and produced a steady performance.


For False Bay centres Jacques van Staden and Riaan O’Neill caught the eye, the latter simply never giving up on both defence and attack. Indeed with about ten minutes to play, O’Neill scythed through the Hamiltons defence and was stopped five metres before the line by a desperate but high tackle. The tackler escaped a yellow card sanction and the team a penalty try, the transgression occurring in the much-feared red zone. Veteran scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon looked snappy when he entered the fray. Up front, lock Simon Askew and flank Brandon Wood shone in the tight loose and lineouts. The man deserving most praise however was captain Graham “Snoopy” Knoop, who gave everything of himself, carrying the ball with power, tackling uncompromisingly and stealing a few of the Hamiltons lineouts.


With only injury time to play, False Bay threw all they had at the Hamiltons defence and it was a little bit of verve and magic from right wing Roemark Smith which broke the hearts of the home support. Receiving the ball with lots to do and three defenders in his path, Smith chipped and chased and collected to score what some say was a dubious try, partially because of a disciplinary incident in the build up and the grounding being questioned. Referee Nathan Swartz was confident in his assessment and confirmed the score. Claasen succeeded with the pressure conversion and spoils were shared.


False Bay travel to Green Point Track to face SK Walmers on Saturday. Kick off is at 3.30pm with first matches starting at 1pm.


 - Jon Harris

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