In an enthralling, close run contest at the Charles Morkel Stadium in the Strand, Motorvaps False Bay RFC took the lead in the match against log leaders, Helderberg with 10 minutes to go, but had victory snatched from their grasp a couple of minutes before the final whistle. The score was 19-15 after the host held first half spoils 12-10.
The soggy, weather-beaten pitch which had been further softened and mashed-up by the three curtain-raisers, as well as Friday Night Lights were always going to stymie an expansive game, but it never inhibited quality and passion. False Bay’s under-20s, Third and Second Teams all delivered victories. Helderberg’s under-20’s had only lost one match in the run in to this encounter.
The main game saw 80-plus minutes of hard, competitive rugby between high-flyers Helderberg, firmly perched on the top rung of the SLA table, and False Bay, defending champions who have coughed and spluttered thus far this season.
It was False Bay who opened the scoring after seven minutes, working their way back into the ‘Berg quarter and earning a penalty, which fullback Ewan Adams converted.
Helderberg, with a big pack of forwards and athletic, well-drilled backs set about working their way back, almost immediately on attack, the wind behind them helping in the process. On the debit side of their forwards balance sheet was the propensity for wayward lineout insertions and the tendency of their front row to take the set scrum down, initially gaining some leniency from the capable referee, but then earning his wrath for a ploy which is illegal and which negates the strength of a team such as False Bay.
These two blights on the Helderberg play were evident in the scoring of their first try. Firstly, having won a penalty barely in the Bay’s half, the ensuing touch kick earned the hosts a line-out not much more than five metres from the Bay line. The throw went astray, turning possession over to the visitors, who then returned possession to their grateful hosts in the form of a scrum. Bay loosehead Wayrin Losper overpowered his opponent, giving the Bay a massive forward push in the direction of the blind side. This is normally uncomfortable ball for an attacking eighthman but Helderberg recovered well and left wing, Hughwan Engelbrecht receive an inside pass to score under the poles. Scrumhalf Michael Visser converted.
The contest was grueling. Helderberg were slick. Their backs decisive, incisive and quick. Right wing, Jodi Koul was outstanding. He never fluffed a line, be it under the high ball, attacking, on defence or in support. Their forwards hard and uncompromising, a group of grafters comfortable with their roles on the pitch, big and powerful.
False Bay were by no means bereft of talent and commitment, and had clearly knuckled down to eradicating the errors in the execution of their game in previous matches this season. They won the front-row battle where Losper, hooker Neil Rautenbach and tighthead Wesley Futter gained ascendency after absorbing the early ‘Berg onslaught. The Bay lineout returned to the power source it was before, targets Josh du Toit, Busanda Mabena and Ryan Olivier combining well with Rautenbach. It was the experienced hooker who won the admiration of Bay supporters with his all-round game, delivering his best performance in a Bay shirt and demonstrating his class in all facets of play.
Rautenbach scored the Bay’s first try off the back of a maul, just reward for his efforts, and mercurial wing Mustaqim Jappie scored in the corner to give his team a three point lead ten minutes from the end.
With the wind at their backs, the excited Bay supporters were hoping their team could withstand the onslaught of Helderberg, who were determined to bag the home win. They broke the hearts of anything Bay when centre Marthinus Carstens sliced through the middle to take his team two points ahead, replacement John Stover making it a four point lead with his conversion.
With four minutes on the clock, False Bay’s determination to score and bag the win could not be ignored. Until a protracted stoppage for an injury to the Bay’s hardman, Lukhanyo Nomzanga, who was stretchered off with a head injury, which fortunately many hours later, was diagnosed as severe concussion. World Rugby’s focus of player safety is to be commended, especially in cases such as this.
The extended injury break appeared to break the Bay’s momentum and try as they might, the rock-solid Helderberg defence stood firm and the hosts won a match they deserved but one that the Bay would be forgiven for harbouring some disappointment at their loss.
False Bay host NTK at Constantia on Saturday. Matches kick off at 1.25pm with the main contest starting at 4pm. Entrance is R20 with scholars entering free of charge.
(Blurb) Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC