After consecutive rainy match-day Saturdays, False Bay RFC weathered a tropical storm in the form of Durbanville-Bellville RFC to come back from a massive deficit and emerge triumphant at Constantia. The final score was 37-34 after the visitors lead 31-13 at the break.
Over the last number of years, a healthy rivalry has developed between the two clubs. Indeed the hosts refer to Durbell as their Northern Suburbs cousins, and that rivalry was in full display on Saturday. In a pre-season friendly match played in early April, the Bay easily won that contest and only the foolish would have believed that it would be much of the same. Durbell were unbeaten in their four matches leading up to the contest and were confident of maintaining that run.
Coach Johan Kotze had obviously done his homework in preparing his team for the clash and it was a determined, motivated Durbell which took to the pitch. Their game plan was simple. Play fast-paced in-the-face rugby on attack and defence and the gaps will open; defend behind the advantage line and frustrate your opponent on attack. It delivered handsome returns as the lads from on top of the Durbanville Hills blew their opponents away, scoring four tries in the first half hour, leaving their opponents stunned as they tallied their own score of a measly penalty kick. Flank Daneel Botes, outstanding for his team on the day, crashed over to open the scoring. Fullback Angus Cleophas, influential throughout the contest with his educated boot and accurate goal kicking, converted this and the other three tries, adding a penalty to his tally before the break. The game was a few minutes old and the Bay were seven points down, the home support fully expecting an equalizing counter-strike which never materialized.
Instead the visitors took control of the game, their big forwards trampling their opponents as they laid a platform for attack. Their tight five massive during this phase. Try scorer Botes was also a reliable source of lineout possession as he combined well with hooker, Rennie Brink in delivering quality possession from this phase. Centre Etienne Swarts scored Durbell's second try within minutes of their opener and by the time wing Janco Conradie crossed for the third try, the home support was struck silent, contemplating the tropical storm they were witnessing. Left wing Roderick Moses banked his team’s bonus point for four tries as he completed a sweeping move from the visitors.
Half an hour of the contest gone and the Tropical Storm Durbell had blown through the small patch of real estate in Constantia. How were the hosts to fight back from such a deficit against a quality outfit such as the boys from the North?
Over the next fifty minutes, False Bay proved their worth as they clawed their way, firstly out of the crater in which they found themselves and then to put themselves in a position to bugle the result before the final whistle. The visitors appeared to have hit a wall in terms of fitness, at times gasping for breath at lineouts and scrums and when this became insufficient, calling for the medics so that the referee would halt proceedings, if only for a minute.
Captain Graham Knoop extoled his troops, inspiring them to deliver more and to not relent. He led from the front, his troops in support as they fought their way back. Fullback Adnaan Oesman, immense on the day, scored the Bay’s first try which was followed up before the break by a Justin Fillies touchdown, to reduce the deficit to eighteen points.
After the break, the Bay were invigorated. Aided by a bench which truly delivered the impact expected of them upon entering the contest, they exerted tremendous pressure on their guests. Flank Brandon Wood, by now at lock, stood out as the Bay increased the pressure. Replacement half backs Niyaas Johnson and Siya Alem were central to the expansive play which False Bay employed. Johnson was reassured and confident behind his pack while Alem attacked the gain line with purpose and confidence. Centre Shoaaib Summai cut the line time and again as the hosts spread the ball to exploit the gaps now opening in the Durbell defences.
Oesman scored the second of his hat trick, followed by tries by Mustaqim Jappie, Alem and Oesman’s third. The fullback was at his best on the day, eluding tacklers by means of side-steps, ducking and dummying. The Bay, their full bench on the pitch by now, swamped their opponents, who to their credit defended their lines passionately and clawed their way back. Durbanville tried desperately to add another score to their tally and thereby move the game out of the reach of their opponents, but the Bay defence stood firm.
With a few minutes to go, Cleophas converted a penalty for the visitors to increase his team’s lead to four points, not enough in the face of a determined team intent on snatching a victory from the jaws of a loss.
With time on the scoreboard into the last sixty seconds, Oesman dived over the line to give the Bay the lead for the first time in the match. It was an enthralling encounter which delivered quality rugby from both teams. The visitors shattered at the end of a game which belonged to them. Defeat almost unfair in the light of the supremacy they enjoyed in the first half. Conversely, victory for the hosts was earned and deserved as they weathered the storm and then exerted pressure on their opponents which was in the end, too much to handle.
Club Rugby is alive and well in the Cape.