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6 May 2017

Photos: Courtesy Gavin Withers Photography

In a match which demonstrated that not only is Club Rugby in the Western Province strong it is high quality entertainment, Stellenbosch University scored in the third minute of extra time to snatch victory from SLA champions, DirectAxis False Bay. The final score was 41-40 after the Maties lead 24-23 at half time.


With a large, predominantly travelling crowd in attendance which had witnessed the Bay’s Second XV dismantle the structure of the Maties Second XV in a powerful 52-19 victory, anticipation for an entertaining main game was high. This was somewhat dampened in the opening quarter as the visitors seemed caught a slumber in contrast to the intensity of their hosts. The Maties played a fast-paced, wide game in this period, interesting to some when the size of their tight forwards was considered. It was a strategy that seemed to have no side effects, especially after a successful Varsity Cup campaign.


It was the Bay who took the early lead however through two penalties by Andri Claassen, but the students struck back with a try by flank Johan van Niekerk off a rolling maul. Fullback Tiaan Swanepoel converted and then scored a well-taken try at the end of the opening quarter. He converted this to give his team an eleven point lead.


The Maties are a team which should not be allowed to get their noses in front. They will cease the opportunity and systematically take the game beyond the reach of their opponents hardly without anyone noticing.  If there is one outstanding characteristic of this False Bay outfit, it is their depth of character and their ability to dig deep when most needed and they struck back when at the right time through a try by flank Taps Tsamondo, converted by Claassen.


Tsamondo has been a revelation at the Bay. An experienced campaigner, he has been in sparkling form this season delivering power performances at the breakdown and in the tackle and then showing a turn of pace that would be the envy of many a wing. Saturday’s was his best performance to date in a Bay jersey and epitomised the attitude of the visitors.


Claasen’s conversion made it a four-point game with fifty minutes to play. Ample time for plenty rugby, and the teams did not disappoint. Maties extended their lead through a try by eighthman Stefan Streicher, again converted by Swanepoel. As an aside, the two kickers delivered a flawless return on goal attempts, succeeding with twelve out of twelve kicks during the game, a remarkable feat.


With half time approaching, an eleven point lead to the hosts would have made the second half a difficult forty minutes of rugby against a quality outfit and again the Bay character deserves mentioning purely for its sheer conspicuousness. Fullback Mustaqeem Jappie counter attacked from his own quarter, chipped over the advancing defence. Wing Roemark Smith with lots of work to do,  collected and sprinted the sixty metres to the line. Claasen’s earlier penalty and conversion of the try reduced the deficit to one point and it was game on for the second half.


After the break the Bay took to the field as a team determined to eradicate their first half lapses and it was obvious in their play, the class of individual players shining through when most needed. Eighthman Ryan Olivier delivered his best half hour of rugby in a long while, cover defending and carrying the ball powerfully and tighthead prop Ashley Wells spearheaded a Bay dominance over the Maties pack in a classic display of scrumming which inspired his team to greater heights while forsaking nothing in loose play.


Smith scored another try soon after the restart and the Bay were in the lead. The second half was forty minutes of high quality, exciting, expansive rugby with the lead changing hands four times, leaving the players exhausted and the spectators thoroughly enthralled.


With three minutes to go Jappie gave his team the lead and the Bay held on until the third minute of extra time when Maties flank Janco Venter broke the Bay hearts when he crashed over at the end of a fifty metre counterattack. Swanepoel, who was unflappable when kicking, succeeded and one of the most exciting games of club rugby in a long while ended in victory for Stellenbosch University.


Maties scored five tries through van Niekerk (2), Venter, Streicher and centre Braam Venter. Swanepoel converted all plus two penalties. Bay’s tries were scored by Smith (2), Jappie and Tsamondo. Claasen’s clean record included four conversions and four penalties.


False Bay RFC host newcomers Union-Milnerton on Saturday. UniMil have been one of the recent success stories of WP Club Rugby in recent years, having regained SLA status after a long absence.


The match will double as the Andre Vosloo Challenge, in honour of a popular member of both clubs who passed away unexpectedly in his prime a number of years ago. First games are at 1.30pm and the main game starts at 4pm.


- Jon Harris


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