False Bay RFC withstood the compelling onslaught of their hosts, Tygerberg RFC, to take a keenly-contested clash 31-17 at Florida Park on Saturday. The visitors led 17-7 when the teams changed sides.
The inclement weather on the day was always going to be a factor with a howling north-westerly wind a major game-deciding factor on the day. Indeed, False Bay’s hitherto unbeaten Second XV had to dig deep to resist a wind-assisted onslaught from the Tygerberg second-stringers to keep that record intact.
It was in the knowledge that the weather and, judging on their direction of first half play, that Bay captain, Thabo Ncongo, led his team on for his fiftieth cap.
Florida Park is the graveyard of many a team visiting the stadium. Loyal, partisan and vocal support, heralding their presence with song and drumming on the stand’s sidewall sheeting, to inspire their heroes to greater heights. On the field, the fifteen talented players taking to the field needed no further inspiration, their self-motivation enough to lift them even in a Covid sports bubble.
The visitors were calm and well-prepared but the memory of two recent, unexpected losses in their last three outings would have been lingering under the surface and the hosts, playing into the demon wind in the opening stanza, gave them little opportunity to settle and ratchet up a decent score to defend into the wind.
“Tiere” have a beefy pack and one would not have been remiss to think that they would run out of puff as the half progressed, especially in the gruelling contest that developed in the forwards on the day. The home pack negated to False Bay scrum in the first half, and as much as the Bay used the wind to kick for territory or simply launch their pacey backs at their opponents, Tygerberg worked their way back up the pitch, clearly accustomed to managing the conditions better on their home turf.
False Bay pivot, Ewan Adams who once again delivered a sparkling performance at ten, opened the scorecard with a penalty. Minutes later, the Bay’s backline delivered the play they are renowned for and scored a try which started as a counter-attack on the centre line, sweeping across the pitch through numerous hands and ending with a try by mercurial left wing, Mustaqeem Jappie. Adams made it 10-0 with the conversion.
The sparce travelling support hoped this would be the first of a few scores to add an Antarctic Summer’s daylight to the score line. It was not to be.
The Tygers broke free, veteran fullback and captain, Daniel Roberts scoring off a well-executed move. Centre Adrian Roberts made it seven with the conversion which reduced the lead to just three points.
The Constantia boys did not panic, calmly maintaining their composure to execute their play well. Judging on the reaction of normally hard-grafting, calm False Bay players, Tygerberg’s ploy of getting under the skins of their opponents was having some effect, albeit isolated. The visitors scored a try almost under the poles, when hooker George Frits crashed over. Adams converted for the last score of the half.
It’s a simple fact that weather conditions are a great leveller in rugby and with the wind at their backs and the accompanying rain in the faces of their opponents, Tygerberg looked set for victory. Bay coach Johnno van der Walt rang some changes during the break and one can be singled out as the most influential of these. He introduced the bench front row of Dave Geffen, Vlam van Vuuren and Tahriq Allen, which simply dismantled their opponents from the first scrum, in turn exerting pressure on their hosts. This pressure, together with other fresh legs in the pack, was pivotal in paying dividends in the final quarter.
“Tiere” managed to level the scores, firstly through a penalty by Roberts and then a try by wing Ryan van Ster, which was goaled by the aforementioned Roberts.
Scores locked at 17 each, a brutal wind and rain playing contrasting roles for each team, and a level scorecard. Wise money would have favoured Tygerberg.
False Bay are a high quality squad, mature and determined and there was no way they would lie down and submit, even when reduced to fourteen men for a yellow card. Their superior fitness, combined with a bench that delivered what is expected of a bench, namely to up the intensity, the southern suburbs team had their opponents camped in their own half for much of the last quarter.
Replacement lock, Izzy Wharton’s try broke the deadlock, Adams made it a seven point difference. Still no reason for supporters to breathe any easier, and certainly no reason for the visitors to relax. On the contrary, the increased pressure, which delivered apt reward, for the popular, hard-working skipper Ncongo to score in his commemorative match. Adams did what he does well, and gave False Bay their final score with his conversion.
By this time Tygerberg appeared to have run out of steam, their capacity diminished by tired legs and False Bay’s determination and time was called on a tough encounter.
False Bay have a break on Saturday and then host SK Walmers next week.
• Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.