False Bay hit a speed bump on their road to SLA2017 when they succumbed to a determined Hamiltons at Constantia.
The final score was 26-19 after the hosts lead 14-0 at the break.
This match was a dress-rehearsal for their season opener which takes place in less than three weeks in Sea Point and both teams were seeking to maintain momentum of the winning kind.
False Bay had delivered a satisfactory report card in their first friendly against Tygerberg, while Hamiltons were impressive in their victory over a strong touring Argentinian team.
A large crowd enjoying the warm weather attended this eagerly awaited contest, thinly disguised as a friendly match as it lacked none of the usual fire and rivalry of a league encounter.
First half proceedings indicated that Constantia would retain its reputation as being a Bay fortress as the hosts took a comfortable lead at the break through a performance which shadowed their opponents.
False Bay’s big number eight, Ryan Olivier, opened his team’s scoresheet with a try which was initiated by a quick tap and go off a penalty by standout centre Riaan O’Neill. Flyhalf Stefan Swanich converted.
The next quarter of an hour belonged to the visitors as they threw the ball around in a series of attacks led by their pivot, Siya Allam. Handling and defence were perhaps the main reasons for Hammies not scoring during this period.
False Bay’s second try was a gem as fullback Mustaqueem Jappie snapped up a failed clearance kick at pace and ran at the slowly advancing defence, chipping for wing Josh Pinn to execute a smooth pick up and complete a counter attack of remarkable pace. Swanich added the two.
Half time dawned and the Bay looked comfortable. Generally their second half performances are strong and the first half had belonged to them.
Coach Johnno van der Walt, resting four of his top players and utilising a 26-man match day squad would have been the more confident of the two coaches. His scrum had held up well, greenhorn hooker Roan Dalzell and prop Simon Raw doing their job in the first stanza against an accomplished Hamiltons front row.
The Bay backline had tossed the ball around confidently with a high success rate although accuracy was a little wanting and generally there appeared to be a feeling of confidence among the crowd that False Bay had this one in the bag.
Hamiltons coach Niekkie Viljoen had other ideas and the same fifteen that went into the half time huddle emerged revitalised and determined. Nothing demonstrated this change in attitude more than the second half performance of the visiting front row. Having taken second spot in the scrumming stakes in the preceding forty minutes, Hamiltons proceeded to place tremendous pressure on the Bay scrum, even when their seasoned reserves entered the fray. With the strong wind at their backs, Allam the pivot in sublime form, and determination in their bellies, Hammies kept the Bay camped in their half for most of the second stanza. Bay’s forays into the visiting half were rare as they endeavoured to stem the Hammies flow.
Hamiltons were awarded a penalty try for repeated scrum transgressions, which was converted by Allam. Minutes later replacement centre Koos Loubser ghosted through a gap to score their second try with Allam’s conversion levelling the score.
With the brisk wind in their faces, False Bay relied on running the ball out of their half and were punished with an interception by flying winger Valentino Wellman, which broke the hearts of the local support. Later left wing Tshepo Manaka crossed for their third try, with Allam keeping a clean record in the kicking stakes.
Although trailing by twelve points, the Bay never gave up. Disrupted by injuries and subsequent on-field changes in personnel, they kept working their systems and were rewarded with a try by flank Taps Tsomondo which featured a number of phases. They continued to strike back at their opponents but ran out of time, which added to the “if-only” comments column. There were sufficient positives to take away from the contest but if improvement is the measure, the Bay lads have a bit of work ahead of them.
False Bay host Durbell in their final warm up match at Constantia on Saturday. First games kick off at 1.30pm with the main game at 4pm.
Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.