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by Jon Harris

It was touted as The Ultimate Derby and it delivered on all fronts. A tough, no-quarter-given-none-asked contest between two performing teams of the same club and it was almost a pity one team had to win. The False Bay Fifths narrowly beat the False Bay FIFOs 12-10 on Friday night after leading 5-0 at the break.


In the preview, also loaded on this website, we attempted to describe the quality of the inaptly named Reserve League and the expected intensity of this particular fixture. That attempt was woefully insufficient and only personal attendance at the contest would have given the spectator an inkling of the commitment and importance of victory on the night. No one but those involved on the pitch and the extended squad could perceive the extent of the passion, focus and sheer single-mindedness of the players.


Naturally two teams from the same club posed an obvious logistical problem. Just who would wear an alternative strip to make refereeing easier and the match more enjoyable for the spectators. The FIFOs, proudly sponsored by BuCo (the building material and hardware suppliers) were keen to unveil their brand new strip to the home support and understandably reluctant to relent. Necessity is the mother of invention and fortunately the modern rugby jersey is screenprinted, not knitted and the Fifths’ green, red & white strip is just white when turned inside out.


Match underway and the banter and verbal sparring, privately and publically were no longer of any consequences. The match was to be decided by the actions of the 44 chosen players.


The first half was one of attrition. Both sides threw all they had at each other and although they threatened the opposing lines, most of the action took place between the two quarter lines. Let this not be misleading, it was not dour arm wrestle. No, play was characterised by innovative running lines being met with uncompromising and sometimes desperate tackling.


The FIFOs, did however suffer two debilitating injuries within the first quarter of an hour. Lock Ashley Raw dislocated his shoulder and evergreen fullback Jonathan Thomas tore his calf muscle. While Raw’s effect is a moot point, Thomas is the regular goalkicker and his loss proved more costly on the scoreboard.


The Fifths for all intents and purposes were practically shutdown at the beginning of the season because of falling numbers, are a team on the up under coaches Alan Footman and Pieter Benade. Training as a squad with the Third XV, they have the benefit of numbers at practices at high quality practice sessions. They also fill the role giving players returning from injury the platform from which to contest for a position in the Third XV.


The FIFOs did dominate one area and if their finishing was a little more accurate, the advantage they gained from the scrums may have proved telling. Their first half front row of Darren Bosman, Brad van Deventer, Chris Baister gave their opponents a working over. Veteran Baister especially was sublime, giving young talent, Gerhard “Trokkie” Lotter a tough time. Lotter brushed this off with a display of ball carrying that had the sizeable crowd abuzz whenever he got the ball. Behind the dominant FIFO pack, eighthman William Solomon thrived and impressed with his telling pick-up-and-go from the base of the scrum.


The False Bay Fifths met every challenge with resolute defence and on the counter attack were a threat whenever the chance presented itself. It was at times resolute defence which kept them out. Scrumhalf Tyson Brinkley was a constant threat around the edges and a giant on defence. Flyhalf Rafe Ashton was solid and controlled the game well, using his silky smooth running style to attack the lines. Right wing Michael Firth was exciting when given the ball and his early departure after pulling a hamstring was a loss to his team.


The loss of Thomas was proving costly for the FIFOs as they missed a goalable penalty conversion. Shortly before the break, Bay Fifths centre, Matt Novitzkis broke the hearts of the FIFO faithful as he intercepted a FIFO pass 60 metres from their line and had an easy run in to score a minute before half time.  


The second half was as keenly and closely contested as the first.        


The shift from centre to fullback of Riaan van der Vyver for the Fifths started to pay some dividends as he proved to be a handful for the FIFOs on the counter attack. The Fifths started to look more threatening with ball in hand. They stuck to their patterns and never seemed to panic under pressure. The FIFO pack, disciplined in the tight loose with a particularly impressive and well constructed rolling maul, were putting their opponents under pressure.


Soon after the restart the FIFOs levelled the score through a well-executed try by centre Heath Wrigley. This was not converted.


The scores were level and the contest got even hotter, if that was at all possible.


Friday night rugby at False Bay is well supported and the crowd in attendance was most impressive. They were treated to a high quality match and the less partial spectator was heard to wonder aloud if a draw was not perhaps the best result. In terms of the Reserve League, the FIFOs are log leaders and False Bay’s best chance of being crowned Reserve League honours. Victory for them would have solidified their position. By contrast the Fifths needed victory to position themselves for a challenge as league champions.


A draw may have been the proverbial kissing of one’s sister, but this was brother facing brother anyway.


With time running out, the hearts of the BuCo FIFOs sunk when Stevie Africa scored for the Fifths. Brinkley converted and the FIFOs were a converted score away from that draw.


Stung into action they tried desperately to break the Fifths’ defences and succeeded with a minute or two to go when fullback Brett Kriedemann scored. The all important conversion went astray and the Fifths completed an unlikely but deserved victory.


Standout players for the FIFOs were eighthman Solomon, Kriedemann for his incisive running, Baister for his scrumming. Wrigley was a steady and telling influence at centre while his partner Matthew Thompson made some eye catching breaks through the middle.


Players to catch the eye for the Fifths were Trokkie Lotter who was ever present in support and a ball carrying threat. Brinkley at scrumhalf put in a man of the match performance. Firth on the wing was elusive and ran strongly. Van der Vyver became more influential as the contest progressed.


Rugby was undoubtedly the winner. Both teams deserve credit for their performances. It was the most important fixture of the season for both teams and when the dust settles and the events make more sense, those involved will hopefully be proud of the role they played in entertaining a large group of people, including a large contingent of senior players who repaid the compliment of support.


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