It was a much-anticipated derby, the first between the two clubs in a number of years as they competed in different leagues and it was the current Gold Cup Champions, False Bay RFC who triumphed over Villager at Constantia on Saturday. The final score was 50-32, after Villager lead 20-17 at the break.
Villager are courting relegation and on the evidence of this performance, it is a mystery as to why they are anywhere near the bottom three. They were a determined and enterprising outfit, intent on causing an upset that would have dashed the Bay’s own hopes of an automatic entry to the semi-finals of the knockout stages of SLA 2018.
False Bay had the visitors under pressure almost from the outset, scoring their first try, by centre Danie Roux, within the first three minutes. Wing Karl Martin converted and then followed this up with a penalty conversion a few minutes later. The Bay’s option to go for the three points instead of setting up a lineout, perhaps indicated the respect they held for their Southern Suburbs rivals. Ten points to the good and the Bay had their tails up. Soon afterwards Shuaib “Bom” Samai scored a thrilling try started from a sixty-metre counter attack and the visitors seemed shell-shocked.
The Dirty Whites were not about to capitulate. Flyhalf Damien West, whose straight running and ability to offload into a gap caused some disarray in the Bay’s defensive lines, spearheaded a resurgence from the Claremont-based team. Using the power of inside centre Wentsley Scott and the pace of right wing Muruano da Silva, he initiated a first half comeback that had the home support chewing their nails. First left wing Lunathi Nxeli scored for his team, which West easily converted. The flyhalf then guided two penalties through the posts to bring his team to within four points of False Bay.
As the half progressed, the Bay found themselves frustrated by some tight defence and at times ordinary execution. Added to this, Villager were bristling with confidence and swarming their opponents at the breakdown. da Silva was especially threatening with ball in hand and a feisty presence on defence and it was he who gave his team the lead with a try, converted by West.
It was a closely contested half, with the visitors taking the spoils on the scoreboard, a deserved and handy lead to have as they turned with the wind at their backs for the second stanza. False Bay were by no means no-shows for the opening forty minutes. They were full of enterprise and their first two tries came with incisive running and slick handling. Captain Graham Knoop was a warrior in the vanguard of his team’s efforts and veteran fyhalf Merrick Ward, playing in his final home game before retiring, was sound throughout the contest. Ward was pipped on the calendar by another veteran, Stewart Lawson, who at the age of 35 started his first match for False Bay’s First XV, having already represented his club in over two hundred matches in the lower leagues.
The compressed season has had an effect on both clubs as injuries have taken their toll. As evidenced on the day, the opportunity to represent their respective club’s flagship team was grabbed with enthusiasm and confidence by players in both teams. Another debutant for the Bay was lock Adam van Willigh, who revelled in the opportunity to showcase his skills when entering the fray in the second half.
As the second half commenced, the attitudes of the two camps of supporters were vastly different. Confidence and belief in their team was high in the Villager camp while the foreheads of the False Bay supporters were furrowed and smiles were hard to find.
The Bay regained the lead through a Danie Roux try and then Knoop scored at the back of a rolling mall, which Martin converted to give his team a nine-point lead. Whether this would be the undoing of the visitors was answered in emphatic fashion as fullback Keenan Jacobs scythed through the Bay defence and scored between the uprights. West obliged with the conversion and the Brooksiders were within a try of their opponents.
It was at the stage that the hosts flexed some muscle and demonstrated the threat they pose to opposing lines. They scored three tries within half an hour, two by Samaai to score his second hat trick in consecutive weeks and one by Martin, who converted all three. The hopes of the visitors were dashed and the spectre of playoffs returning as their chances of an upset faded. They simply never gave up and with only referee’s optional time remaining, Villager employed what can be termed as a rumbling mall. All but two of their players joined a twenty-metre melee-on-the-hoof, a well-controlled, slow surge for the line which saw reserve hooker Tinash Chaza emerge from the bottom of the pile of bodies, a broad smile and high-fives all round clear evidence of his score.
The referee called an end to an entertaining contest, one filled with quality rugby and more than enough intrigue.
Besides those already mentioned, loose forward Michael Otto and locks Hamish Dibden and Kwakhono Ngwayana caught the eye for Villager. Halfbacks Dylan Frylinck and Ward stood out for the Bay at the back while Knoop, flank Brandon Ward and prop Wesley Futter toiled tirelessly up front.
Villager have completed their round-robin stage and now await Saturday’s results to see if they have another match to play. False Bay travel to Brackenfell to face a very competitive team determined to end their season with a win over the Bay.
It promises to be a highly entertaining encounter. First matches are at 12.10pm and the main game kicks off at 4pm.