BAY GO MARCHING IN
It was expected to be one of the matches of the season and it managed to exceed expectations. DirectAxis False Bay RFC triumphed over Ikeys in the warm Spring sunshine in front of the biggest crowd the venue has seen in a number of years. The final score was 30-14 after the hosts lead 6-0 at the break.
The atmosphere was electric, with the build up of earlier matches adding to the tension. There was no reading into how proceedings would fare as the main event approached as the Under 20 and Third XV fixtures ended in draws while the Bay’s Second XV narrowly lost 12-17. Adding a little bit of razzmatazz to the normally dour introduction to the main event were two bagpipers who piped the teams onto the pitch.
Doubling as the Mark Jordaan Trophy, False Bay needed a win to crown their remarkable year with a second-spot finish in SLA2015, their best league performance since they won the Grand Challenge in 1972. A win for the home team was the popular choice as the Constantia club has played an entertaining brand of rugby throughout the season and has enjoyed a resurgence after their lowest point, relegation to Division One in 2003. There was also one niggling monkey on the backs of the Bay boys. They had not beaten UCT in an SLA match since returning in 2009 and it was ironic that they should achieve this against their former coach, Kevin Musikanth who is Director of Rugby at the esteemed University.
The victory brought with it a frivolous awarding of their very own Varsity Cup, as False Bay achieved the rare distinction of beating all four University teams currently competing in the Super League A, namely UCT, Victorians, UWC and Maties whose only loss this season on the way to yet another Championship was to DirectAxis False Bay.
The contest was always going to be a tough, uncompromising affair. The Ikeys backs especially were full of running and had it not been for the determined Bay defences, they most certainly would have crossed the tryline on more than the two occasions on which they did. Here centre Jarred Sage was particularly visible, running with purpose and a constant threat on attack.
The Constantia team broke the duck on the scoreboard after fifteen minutes when flyhalf Andri Claasens, who enjoyed a good outing, succeeded with a drop-goal. Ten minutes later he converted a penalty to double his team’s lead. The first half continued in similar vein, scything attacks stopped by brutal defence. Scrumhalf Ridhaa Damon epitomised the Bay’s attitude, a threat on attack and steadfast on defence. Hooker Vlam van Vuuren, prop Ashley Wells, evergreen flank Justin van Winkel and captain Michael Poppmeier also threw their bodies around in at-times desperate defence. Lock Graham Knoop pilfered more than a few opposition lineouts adding to the pressure being piled on the visitors.
If the opening stanza was tense, the second half was no easier, only more entertaining to boot. UCT were the first to score, erasing the Bay’s slender lead through a well-worked try by lock Jade Kriel, which was converted by fullback Thomas Bednall.
The UCT front row of Sithembiso Sithole, Cullen Collopy and Joel Carew held a marginal upperhand in the first half which allowed their team valuable front foot advantage but as the contest progressed and they were replaced, the False Bay front row took control, placing their guests under tremendous pressure in this facet of play. Indeed one particularly strong scrum saw Knoop eventually score after replacement eighthman Andrew Whittaker was stopped breathlessly close to the line after a devastating pick up and go off that scrum.
That try was the final score of the day with lots of excitement created by the endeavour of both teams to run the ball and there was lots of rugby still to be played before then. The students were never going to stand back to their older opponents and were only denied further scores by the brave defence of the hosts. The Ikeys defence itself was uncompromising, the aforesaid Kriel not afraid to front up.
Whatever was said in the half time huddle by Bay Coach Johnno van der Walt is by now legend, but it served to inspire his team. Perhaps it was the reminder of the undertaking by the entire team to honour former team mate, Francois “Sweis” Breytenbach who had tragically lost his life last year, or just a reminder that forty minutes would define a brilliant season or an ordinary one.
33 year-old Poppmeier, who announced his retirement afterwards, crashed over for a try which Claasens converted. Moments later the pivot converted a penalty but the dangerous Ikeys were still in striking distance and were by no means ready to capitulate, even after standout player, eighthman Ryan Olivier broke the visitors heart with a well-deserved try with Claasens adding the extra two points. A few minutes from full time, Knoop sealed the result with his score and referee Daniel Fortuin, who deserves recognition for a match well conducted, called an end to this enthralling contest.
DirectAxis False Bay’s second place finish gains them entry into next year’s Community Cup, a national competition for club rugby champions from the various leagues across the land. It also affords them an automatic home semi-final berth in the President’s Cup, the WPRFU end of season knock-out competition for the top finishing clubs. The Bay’s semi-final will take place at Constantia on Saturday 26 September.