Picture: Withers and son photography
The final score was 31-29 after the Bay trailed 10-26 at the break. A close rivalry has existed between the two clubs for a number of years now. Recent encounters have been close, filled with drama and quality rugby. The hosts were victorious the last time the sides met – at last year’s semi-finals in Athlone.
By the time Saturday’s fixture arrived as round eight of the SLA 2019, Durbell were lying second on the table with the Bay snapping at their heels in third position. With a stiff north-westerly wind at their backs, the hosts set about building a healthy lead to carry them through the second half when the biting wind would be the ally of the visitors.
The opening eight minutes saw possession belonging entirely to Durbies as they launched attack after attack at the Bay lines. With skipper Angus Cleophas at pivot and fireball Raymond Olivier at fullback, their backline ran hard at their guests, who defended valiantly.
Eventually getting their hands on the ball, the Bay started to settle into the contest on a more equal footing.
Durbies were the first to score when an overlap developed on the right wing, perfectly exploited by wing Jaco Conradie, who offloaded to Olivier to complete and then convert.
Shaken, the Bay endeavoured to erase the lead they had afforded their opponents. Their team was two tries down, the match barely a quarter of an hour old and the opposing defensive line seemingly impregnable.
Just then they were further shocked by a severe injury to star performer, Chadley Cloete who broke his ankle in a heavy tackle as he attacked the Durbell line.
Galvanised and inspired by the loss of their teammate stretchered off to a consoling round of applause, the Bay struck back with a try by fullback Adnaan Osman, who scored the conversion.
Flyhalf Ewan Adams then converted a penalty to reduce the Durbies lead to just four points and a scorching hot contest got even hotter.
The hosts defended furiously, proving adept at effective counter-attack, one of which led to their third try, Conradie’s second, scored in similar fashion to their first. Olivier scored the conversion and then minutes later scored in the corner to extend his team’s lead to 16 points going into the break.
As the second stanza commenced, contrasting sentiments in the two groups of supporters prevailed.
Home support felt not-so-quietly confident, their excitement difficult to contain. A 16 point lead together with a rock-solid defence structure, incisive running behind a platform of physicality from their forwards, Durbell were looking ominous. The wind even appeared to be in on the act, seemingly losing some of its strength and blowing in gusts rather than constantly.
The Bay set about building their half, clawing their way back into contention. They scored a try by eighthman Ryan Olivier off the back of a scrum, which Adams converted.
With the deficit reduced to nine points, Bay fans were sitting on the edge of their seats, only to be pushed back in them as the hosts extended their lead to 12 points with a Cleophas penalty. That was the last time they would score in the match though.
The effect of the wind simply cannot be understated and the Bay pinned their opponents in their half through use of the boot.
Durbell had a hurricane in their team, flank Daniel Botes, whose presence and physicality appeared to inspire his teammates, notably when their shoulders appeared to drop.
Barely into the last 10 minutes, False Bay brought themselves to within five points of the leaders with a try by wing Mustaqeem Jappie, which Adams converted.
Superbly managed by the man in the middle Quinton Immelman, a respected referee, his experience and demeanour a perfect fit for the occasion.
The Bay levelled the scores when reserve scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson broke the Durbell defence to reach over the line and score next to the uprights.
Adams gave them the lead for the first and most important time in the match, but their was still some injury time to run and with the hosts challenged, the Bay defences in their own half, a penalisable offence was all that was needed to wrest the result from the clutches of the visitors. This was not to be and the Bay took match honours in a clash which epitomised the entertainment value of club rugby. False Bay now travel to Green Point to face Hamilton on Saturday.
Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.