HAMMIES RESIST STOR-AGE FALSE BAY FIGHTBACK
by Jon Harris
Hamilton RFC repelled a second half Stor-Age False Bay comeback to run out victors at Constantia on Saturday. The final score was 39-24 after the visitors led 10-0 at the break.
Expected to be a clash of non-university team giants, third-placed Stor-Age False Bay were hopeful of springing a surprise on the more fancied Sea Point outfit. If the half time score gave hope of that possibility, all such confidence was forcibly removed in a ten minute period soon after the restart wherein Hammies scored a trio of tries which silenced the home support and had the electronic scoreboard brightly displaying “Home 0-Visitors 29” in the dull late afternoon light.
On paper Hamiltons were by far the better team going into the contest, but it has been in the execution where False Bay has surprised many and won a legion of support. With more than 2000 spectators framing all four borders of the pitch, the contest started, two enormous, uncompromising packs in the vanguard of the fray. The visitors were dealt an early blow when lock Tiaan Fick, a central figure to their cause, hobbled off with a knee injury. Stor-Age False Bay too had their own disruptions, with the loss of uncompromising flanker Brett Stevens and fullback Byron Mohr requiring early positional shuffles.
The first half was much a process of attrition. The visitors perhaps had the edge in the tight loose, affording their exciting backs the luxury of running onto the ball, with centre Morgan Newman prominent. Flyhalf Monty Dumond, a former Sharks player, showed his experience with his judicious out-of-hand kicking which pinned the home side back when the circumstances dictated. His slick distribution set up some threatening breaks, especially the drift pass which seemed to catch the Bay napping on two occasions.
In the first half, Hamiltons’ replacement lock Sipho Buthelezi limited the loss of Fick with his hard work in the loose and lineouts, eighthman Jody Birch was his usual physical self and hooker Johannes Gillomee was productive. False Bay’s hooker Vlam van Vuuren was combative, prop Ashley Wells busy and centre Jaques van Staden hard to contain.
To imply that Hamiltons played all the rugby in the opening stanza, as may be the case thus far, would be misleading. This was a closely contested match between two top teams and False Bay did not disappoint. They used their possession well, challenging their opponents lines relentlessly and it was only resolute defence which kept those lines intact, although the Bay boys in the cold light of day might admit that their risk levels were at times a little high.
Wing Jandre van Zyl opened the score for the visitors with a penalty and then scrumhalf Dylan Tidbury finished off a counter attack which had started with a chip by fullback Pierre Cronje behind the Bay line while they were on attack. He collected while still in his own half, the ball seeing a number of hands before Tidbury scored and van Zyl added the extra points.
The break was taken and one sensed that False Bay would be a different team after the restart.
Indeed they were and were immediately on attack. What followed were fifteen demoralising minutes for the home team, possibly self-inflicted as they broke away from their tried and tested percentage game. Instead they tried to run themselves out of their own quarter, rather than relying on their accomplished lineout to contest a restart from a line kick. Twice, with the help of some vicious luck, chip kicks stuck in the opponents grasp and resulted in what can only be described as 30m ‘doddles’ to the line for the recipient. The converse to this of course is that the pressure exerted by the visitors may have caused the Bay to resort to a higher risk pattern.
Whatever one’s view, False Bay found themselves dead and buried at 29-0. Fifteen minutes into the second stanza and the pessimists amongst the home crowd drifted inside to watch the Sharks’ Super 15 playoffs.
Quality outfits do not give up and irrespective of allegiances, nobody present can deny the Bay’s quality. Their forwards were by now in ascendancy, apparently enjoying an edge in conditioning, with eighthman Ryan Olivier leading the way. He tackled, cover defended and carried the ball like a man possessed. Locks Graham Knoop and Mike Popmeier too did the hard graft and replacement prop, Jonny Simpson added mobility which increased the pace of the forwards game.
Replacement scrumhalf, Darren Rix became an absolute nuisance as he nipped at the heels of his opponents, taking quick penalty taps and running around the edges, setting up False Bay forays into the visitors’ camp.
The Bay scored four tries, a hat trick by Olivier and one by Popmeier, within the next quarter of an hour to gain an invaluable league bonus point. Had they not conceded two soft tries during this period, Hamiltons may very well have been wondering if the Constantia bogey was at play again.
The visitors appeared to be wilting in terms of fitness and False Bay were by now exerting authority up front, their four tries by their forwards testimony to this. “If only” was to be heard in many a post-match discussion and False Bay had their fair share of these. Hamiltons deserved the victory on the day, their out of hand kicking alone far superior and shifting pressure onto the home side. Their defensive patterns were good, another source of pressure for the Bay. In the backs, the experienced heads of Newman, Cronje and Dumond kept everyone calm.
Stor-Age False Bay, and indeed even visiting support, will admit that they contrived to lose the game through some injudicious decision-making, forgivable against weaker opposition. As disappointed as they may be, they have full reason to hold their heads high and are well-deserving of their current position in the SLA.
In all the contest was a wonderful advert for Club Rugby in the Western Province, impeccably handled by referee Joey Salmans and thoroughly enjoyed by each of the people in the very larger crowd.
For Stor-Age False Bay Olivier scored three tries and Popmeier one. Flyhalf Andri Claasens converted two.
Hamiltons’ six tries came through Tidbury (2), centre Jan du Plessis, wings Craig Pfeiffer and Jandre van Zyl and flank Gareth Rowe. Van Zyl converted a penalty and three tries.
The victory cements Hamiltons top of the table position, while the bonus point takes False Bay to second on the log.
Stor-Age False Bay host NNK at Constantia on Saturday. Kick off is at 4pm.