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In glorious Winter sunshine, well in excess of a thousand spectators were treated to a day of rugby which matched the occasion. Motorvaps False Bay forfeited a slender half time lead over their more fancied opponents Hamilton RFC going down 16-25, after leading 10-8 at the break.


The occasion was a wonderful advertisement for Club Rugby in the Western Province, a programme featuring top-of-the-table clashes and a highly entertaining Women’s League match between the Bay and Busy Beas of Khayalitsha. After the match the teams joined in a huddle to demonstrate the essence of rugby camaraderie, singing and dancing in celebration of the occasion. The Bay on this occasion narrowly won 24-22.


Match day proceedings were launched with the much-anticipated contest between the clubs’ Under 20 A outfits and it was the visitors who exited the terrain deserved 24-12 victors, their more fluid execution giving them the edge in match. False Bay’s Third Team, generously agreeing to play their game on the B-field to accommodate the Under 20 clash, were the only of the Bay’s Senior teams to deliver a win on the day.


By the time the main event started, the field was framed by spectators, many standing, the majority sitting in the stands or on the grass verges around the pitch. Again, the club’s restaurant and garden were filled to the rafter, all these aspects adding to the spectacle and success of the day.


All would have meant nothing if the rugby was not up to scratch, and the main clash delivered a match of high quality, intrigue and heartbreak as the teams were required to contest to the very end to ensure victory.


Hamilton, with more than a smattering of Provincial players in their squad, were the favourites . Motorvaps False Bay’s team of young guns mixed with their seasoned veterans, were expected to wilt under the pressure. That assessment was probably spectator hype but for the opening few minutes it was perhaps an accurate one as Hammies took control, flooding the point of breakdown and smothering their hosts with attention. They opened their scoring with a try by right wing, Damon Rawsthorn and minutes later increased their five-point lead to eight with a penalty conversion by flyhalf Conor van Eeden.


Were Motorvaps False Bay about to get a lesson in rugby? The ease of that try and the danger of forfeiting penalties within kicking range, risked a steady stream of points without corrective action to inhibit the endeavour of their opponents.


Not only did the Bay stymie that flair, but they also embarked on a charm offensive, running at the visitors off quality possession set up from first phase launchpads, such as their scrum and the lineout. With first choice hooker Jacques Goosen on the last of his two-week suspension, James Matthew delivered an exceptional performance in the basics of hooker player, that of strong scrummaging and accurate lineout work, combining  with his jumpers to deliver a 95% accuracy return on the day. Flanked by props Ghumaid Jaffa and Tahriq Allen, the Bay front row exerted exceptional pressure on their more-fancied opponents, a surprise to many considering the capabilities of the Hamilton front line.


It was not all Bay in this department though, as the Sea Point front row gave as good as they got. Here tighthead prop, Boeta du Preez, deserves recognition. An enormous, athletically built powerhouse, he caught the eye with ball in hand, more and more as the contest went on at a time most would have expected him to have faded.


Trailing 0-8, the Bay were relentlessly counter-attacking, not afraid to run the ball. Big Bay eighthman Shaine Orderson fielded a failed tactical kick forty meters from the Hamilton line. His turn of pace, and big, athletic frame caught the Hammies defences off guard, swan-diving for a try under the poles, barely a defensive hand touching him. Fullback Grant Hermanus converted to narrow the difference to a single point. Hermanus was to exit the contest soon afterwards, as did centre Muji van der Hoven, and their replacements featured in many facets of play upon entering the contest. Josh Florence slotted in at centre where his defensive and attacking play drew attention and Ewan Adams, the standout back over the last three seasons, took Hermanus’s place and excelled. He converted a penalty just before the break to give his team their 10-8 lead and then kept Motorvaps False Bay in front with two second half penalties.


It takes two teams throwing everything they have at each other to make an exciting eighty minute contest.  The spectators, rivetted to their seats or leaden-footed, were unable to tear themselves from the contest. The Bay boys were relentless on attack, dogged on defence. Locks Ryan Olivier and Josh du Toit were immense, the latter heading the tackle count of his team, while veteran Olivier was calm and collected, carrying the ball with authority. Captain Thabo Nqcongo and Lukhanyo Nomzanga completed a power loose trio with Ordison. In the backline, diminutive half-backs Niyaaz Johnson at nine and Dylon Frylinck at ten, were immense.


As the contest progressed, the Bay continued to hold the edge but failed to cross the Hammies line for the big points scores, a frailty which would come back to haunt them in the closing stages. Holding onto a slender 13-8 lead, one slip in defence, one harsh adjudication decision or one moment of brilliance could wipe out that lead and break the hearts of their supporters. That moment came when eighthman Lance Lamprecht streaked across the Bay line to level the scores. Van Eeden’s conversion was ruled by the assistant referees to have passed on the wrong side of the uprights, but esteemed referee Aimee Barret-Theron correctly over-ruled the decision and awarded the conversion. Hammies had a 15-13 lead and the Bay wanted it back, something they achieved when Adams slotted a penalty to take his team a single point in front.


Hang on or play rugby is the dilemma facing teams in similar situations and Ashley Wells’ team never shied away from the challenge, but heartbreak came in the form of another van Eeden penalty, taking his team into a two-point lead with barely a minute to play. Hammies managed to force the Bay back into their quarter, dictating a risky game plan to run everything to get back within striking distance of the poles and hopefully a penalty or more to come out of it. Instead, a dropped pass snatched up by centre Christiaan Zietsman took the result out of False Bay’s reach and robbed them of a losing bonus point for insult.


It was a day of rugby enjoyed by all, no matter one’s allegiances, the rivalry left on the pitch in exchange for the camaraderie of the afterglow.


Motorvaps False Bay travel to the Northern Suburbs on Saturday to face Brackenfell. Matches start at 1.30pm with the main event kicking off at 4pm.

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