HAMILTONS CONQUER THE BAY
Photos: Courtesy of Max Bosanquet - Action Pix
It was touted as a clash of giants and it did not disappoint, a contest between two hitherto unbeaten teams in the Super League A and one left with that record intact. Home team Hamiltons RFC reversed a 7-20 half time deficit to beat DirectAxis False Bay RFC 38-23.
There was quiet consternation amongst the home support as they awaited the entry of the teams onto the park. The Bay's Second and Third XVs had both delivered somewhat unexpected victories and doubt about the headline contest was creeping in. At the half time break that doubt had grown to a mild panic caused by the comfortable lead the visitors had built up.
It wasn't only the daylight between the scores which was disconcerting but also the number of turnovers the Constantia lads were able to effect, especially at the hands of their flanks Justin van Winkle and Willie Coetzee. Had the Bay not squandered the equivalent of rugby's easy money through bad decision-making and execution, the half time points difference could have been far greater.
The Hamiltons forwards laid the foundation for the team's overall performance, with their aggressive rucking often taking the Bay backwards after they had set up the successful ruck. The pinpoint restarts of flyhalf Monty Dumond, completed by the in-your-face challenges of their kick-off chasers made this facet a lottery with the home team banking the big payout. Indeed, every time False Bay’s pivot with the booming boot, Andri Claasen slotted one of his 50 metre kicks, the Hammies outfit managed to exert pressure through the restart.
Hammies patiently played their game but it was still touch and go for them in the opening ten minutes of the second stanza. It was a cruel triple-cut of the sword which slayed the Bay. Stringing some phases together and finding themselves swarming the Hamiltons defences with wave after wave of attack, a ball normally held to set up another phase was passed to a player in a better position just five metres from the Hamiltons line. Fair odds one may say, but in the opponents red zone possession is entirely the name of the game and no pass with a risk factor of less than one hundred to nil is worth it. The pass was intercepted by centre Jandre du Plessis and a 95 metre try was scored in the corner. That was the first cut of the sword.
Referee Quinton Immelman, who had a good game, ruled the final tackle on winger Earl Lewis as high and awarded the home team a penalty try under the poles. The conversion was guaranteed for Dumond in contrast to one from the touchline in a tricky wind. Cut number two with a backward swipe. The cruellest cut was yet to come as wing Wesley Hamilton was banished to the sin bin for the high tackle. Had False Bay scored that try so apparently certain just a few seconds earlier, one got the feeling that Hamiltons would have faced an upward battle to recover from what would have been a 27-7 deficit. Instead, they found themselves at 20-14 with a one-man advantage.
Claasen increased his team’s lead to nine with another well-taken penalty soon afterwards.
The Constantia team refused to give up though and even with a man short they endeavoured to open the game up to narrow the lead. By now False Bay coach Johnno van der Walt had introduced game breakers such as Mustaqeem Jappie, Martin Sauls and Darren Rix. Playing into the icy Southerly wind against a top-class Hamiltons outfit growing in confidence made it no easier and the home team managed what most would term a soft try when standout centre du Plessis crossed the line. Dumond converted and False Bay’s lead was down to two.
Lewis then ensured his name was entered on the scoresheet, having been robbed of his previous entry by the penalty try when he stood up all defenders with some sublime footwork to take his team into the lead. Yes, Dumond converted.
By now the Bay were relying on individual brilliance to break the defences, not a bad tactic considering the tight defences on display. Their efforts were frustrated by the loss of some frontline players requiring a shift of personnel. By this time Ryan Olivier, Andrew Whittaker and Vlam van Vuuren had to be replaced because of injury, which did not help matters in any way.
Hamiltons sealed the result with two tries in the last quarter of an hour by replacement flank Francois Esterhuysen. Dumond finally erred and missed one of these.
It was a match False Bay had within their grasp. They had a surfeit of possession through some wonderful turnover ball. They weren’t shy to attack, centre Jason Pretorius the spearhead. They fronted up, never stood back and had they scored instead of conceding the penalty try, they probably would have shut the home team out.
But rugby with only one team playing is called shadow rugby and Hamiltons showed their class. Coach Anton Moolman had done his homework on his opponents, the display of his forwards, especially in the rucks, testimony to this. His team is a well-balanced one, with big and strong forwards laying a foundation for the best backline in national club rugby.
It was a game that enthralled from beginning to end. Gutted as False Bay were with the loss, they contributed their fair share to a contest which advertised the high quality of Western Province club rugby. Hamiltons deserved the victory on the balance of matters but perhaps the scoreline flattered in terms of the closeness of the contest.
Outstanding for Hamiltons were lock Tiaan Fick who was a tower of strength in the lineouts, flanks Chris Cloete and Gareth Rowe and of course Dumond, the full Monty in terms of his all round play. Seasoned campaigner Morgan Newman showed his class through his physical defence and classy attack.
False Bay’s Adnaam Osman was safe on defence and exciting on attack, his out of hand kicking effective. Centre Pretorius was a constant threat. Lock Graham Knoop carried the ball well as did prop Gerhard Lotter. van Vuuren was uncompromising on defence. Claasen kept False Bay in the hunt with his booming boot while delivering a sound all-round game. Flanks van Winkle and Coetzee were outstanding, the latter delivering an outstanding all round performance.
For Hamiltons there was a penalty try, as well as Esterhuysen (2), du Plessis, Dumond and Lewis. Dumond converted four. False Bay’s Claasen converted six penalties while Olivier scored a try.
False Bay host Primrose at Constantia in a Southern Suburbs derby on Saturday. Kick off is at 4pm.