THE MYSTERY CONTINUES
Photos: Gavin Withers Photography
It was a result that not many considered and even less begrudged as DirectAxis False Bay RFC and Hamiltons Sea Point RFC played out to an exciting draw in their Super League A clash at Constantia on Saturday. The final score was 24-24 after the visitors lead 18-14 at the break.
Two unbeaten teams arrived at the Philip Herbstein fields in Constantia to decide who would lay claim to the top position of the SLA as it entered its mid-season break. Both expected to be the victor, neither considered being the vanquished. It was a contest which left the crowd in excess of three thousand gasping for breath and exalting the state of the club game in the province afterwards.
Indeed the club game in the Western Province appears to be very healthy, with large crowds in attendance at many matches each week as top teams battle it out in the competitive leagues of the Union. This contest was no different and the spectators thronged to Constantia, framing the field of battle to gain a good observation point.
From the outset the teams launched their attacks at each other in a fast paced opening stanza, the score remaining unchanged for the better part of the first quarter. The Hamiltons forwards during this period could probably lay claim to ascendency as they took the game to their hosts and their hard work was rewarded when master flyhalf, Monty Dumond opened the scoring with a penalty.
False Bay were stung and reacted in the best manner any team can, by scoring a try in the corner. Awarded a penalty on their opponents’ ten metre line, livewire scrumhalf Dylon Frylinck took a quick tap and started a move which resulted in wing Mustaqeem Jappie scoring ten metres in from the touchline. Flyhalf Andri Claassen converted and the Bay took a four point lead. Dumond reduced that to a single point minutes later with a penalty kick.
The Bay had chatted in the huddle and had a plan for the restart, a deep kick which found Hammies ball-watching as it bobbed around for veteran centre Byron Mohr to snatch it from the fingertips of an opponent and score under the poles. Claassen made the try a goal.
By the time the half had ended, that eight point Bay advantage had been reversed by the visitors through two well worked tries by standout centre Harlon Klaasen, one of which was converted by Dumond. The swirling wind was a constant factor in the match, even this maestro of the boot missing his target. The Bay were reduced to fourteen men through a yellow card, making their task that more difficult and Hammies, professional as always made them pay for the player deficit with this brace.
Despite the yellow card, these tries were well taken opportunities which saw the Bay defence being sliced with great ease and did not bode well for the second half, a period where traditionally Hamiltons have had the upper hand in previous contests.
In the opening stages of the second half Dumond, by now back at his best, converted two penalties to extend the Hamiltons lead to ten. The Bay, without the presence and leadership of captain Graham Knoop, came back at their opponents well in the second half. Fullback Adnaan Osman converted a penalty to reduce the lead to a goal.
The match was played at tremendous pace with brutal physicality. Both sides threw everything at each other and every spectator was being treated to rugby of the highest quality befitting a top of the table clash. Hamiltons eighthman Jody Burch was his usual robust self. Klaasen and Morgan Newman at centre were constant threats, while inside of them Dumond delivered his usual master performance. Up front flank Gareth Rowe was very busy, his absence felt when he departed late in the game.
False Bay too played a fair role in delivering an exciting contest. Props Wesley Chetty and Ashley Wells were prominent, the former all over in the loose, the latter leading a resurgence in his team’s scrumming performances as the game progressed. Young lock Brandon Wood delivered the goods, securing good lineout ball and hitting the rucks and mauls through his high work rate. Eighthman Ryan Olivier was a giant presence and evergreen Justin van Winkel the silent storm. Replacement hooker Royal Mwali is a gem, his skills immense and he was rewarded with the Bay’s third try. At the back Osman was steady, understated class, as was replacement scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon. The nuggety number nine replaced Frylinck who had an outstanding game. These two are different in style but have similar impact on a game.
Mwali’s try and Claassen’s conversion levelled the scores with five minutes to go. What ensued was fifteen minutes of intense, exciting play as each team sought to break the deadlock in what amounted to a sudden death playoff. There was ten minutes of extended time as both teams opted to keep the ball alive by going for touch on penalties and during this period it was the Bay who seemed most likely to score. Long range goalkicks presented greater risk through counter attack and it was left to try scoring off error in defence to break the tie.
It was not to come and the match ended in a draw. Most in attendance agreed that the result was perhaps the fairest. That was probably out of relief at not succumbing to a last gasp loss rather than a willingness to share the spoils. The players feel differently and were disappointed, whatever the colour of their shirt.
As all coaches trumpet, statistics don’t lie and the Bay’s figures show that the match was theirs for the taking. Their first half performance was perhaps their downfall in terms of missed tackles and scoring opportunities off lineouts, a primary source of tries for them.
Whatever the reasons, the score is in the book and over three thousand people went home feeling well entertained.
False Bay have a five week break until mid-July.