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by Jon Harris


UCT overcame a strong challenge from STOR-AGE  False Bay RFC at Groote Schuur on Saturday to remain top of the Super League A. They won 21-13 after trailing 0-10 at the break.


With both sides needing a bonus point at least to facilitate their respective league aspirations, a festival of running rugby was expected. The Bay were challenging their second Varsity team in seven days while UCT were facing their second tough encounter in 4 days, having triumphed over Hamiltons in a bruising encounter on the previous Wednesday.


The Bay’s determination met the Ikeys’ tender frames and the halftime score hinted at an upset being on the cards. With the renowned Green Mile wind at their back, a ten point halftime lead was always going to be a little thin, especially against a team adept at playing in those conditions. Any team would know how to handle the conditions on their home track and the Ikeys are exceptionally well prepared to negate negative influences. Their attention to detail is remarkable and it is the collective of addressing minor issues which adds up to a substantial difference. One such example is the difficulty for the line kicker to identify a target against the backdrop of lush greenery on the roadside of the pitch. The UCT physio simply identifies the target and raises his luminous pink waterbottle as a bright beacon. Brilliant in its simplicity.


Nevertheless, every venue has its ‘idiosyncracies’ and it is up to the teams to adapt.


Many battles within the contest were expected none less the scrums, where the much vaunted front row of the students was facing their second tough challenge in less than a week. The contest was curtailed somewhat by the apparent inability of the referee to police the dark corridors of front row play properly but certainly UCT loosehead prop Joel Carew and hooker Niel Rautenbach enjoyed successful outings in this department. Tighthead Digby Webb appeared to court the benevolence of the referee and was at time fortunate to not receive further sanctioning for his technique.


Indeed the Constantia team’s only try resulted from a penalty awarded for illegal scrumming with the ever-alert Ridhaa Damon, back at his favoured position of scrumhalf, scoring almost under the poles after a quick tap and run.


If False Bay’s strength is their pack, no one told the students. They met them gallantly up front, never standing back. This was typified by their scrumming where they would take a beating in one or two scrums and bounce back and shove their opponents back in the next. Rautenbach in particular was strong in this department and central to their scrum efforts.


The Bay were contesting effectively, stymieing the UCT flair but were attracting the wrath of the referee in the process. Flank Justin van Winkle, probably the man of the match for the visitors received a yellow card for cynical play. In fact he was the first of four yellow cards given to False Bay on the day, which equates to play a half with fourteen men.


With proceedings heading towards the break, False Bay must have felt a modicum of confidence in their chances.


The Varsity team which returned was a different entity, confident in their ability and comfortable on their home track. Their forwards continued to contest well and their lineout became more of a factor as UCT flyhalf, Ross Jones-Davies punished the visitors with his long touch kicks with the wind. Completing that weapon was an efficient UCT lineout, spearheaded by lock James Kilroe, which faultlessly delivered quality possession off which the driving maul became a constant threat.


The hosts fought back with three tries in the second half, through wing David Strachan, flank Jason Klaasen and scrumhalf Guy Alexander. Jones-Davies converted all three.


The match was riddled with excessive stoppages, most regrettable as it was expected to be a feast of running rugby. UCT, renowned for their expansive play and ability to play until the last second of any contest promised the flair, while False Bay possess an under-rated backline keen to show their wares on this stage.


Both teams could easily have expected the much needed bonus point they sought by virtue of four tries alone. Instead what followed was a match dominated by stoppages, especially at scrum time. Here it appeared as if the referee was over-focussed on correct binding and neglected to instruct the respective scrumhalves to insert the ball into the scrum, a prerequisite for the restart. All too often this delay resulted in a free kick. Whether the home side was as dominant as the penalty statistics suggest is a moot point. Indeed the visitors suffered 23 penalties and four yellow cards on the day and their defence and structure needs to be commended in the light of the eight point difference in the scoreline.


It is not being suggested that the result would have been any different, not with any certainty. A more free-flowing contest would have created more opportunities for both sides. The stop start affair robbed all in attendance of a potentially entertaining affair and many felt a sense of emptiness after the match.


Outstanding players for False Bay were locks Graham Knoop and Michael Poppmeier, van Winkle, eighthman Ryan Olivier and wing Justin Fillies. Flyhalf Andri Claasens directed proceedings well and used his big boot effectively.


For UCT, Rautenbach, Carew, Kilroe and Jones-Davies stood out as did scrumhalf, Alexander.


In terms of the loss of a valuable league point, UCT could have placed themselves in an almost unassailable position for league honours while False Bay would have extended a lead over Durbell vying for the Community Cup playoff position awarded to the second non-university team at the end of the season.


False Bay have a bye on Saturday and then host Bellville on 23 August.




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