What was touted to be a super-clash at Constantia on Saturday did not disappoint, with visitors Union-Milnerton (Uni-Mil) edging hosts False Bay RFC 24-21 at the death. The Bay lead 14-3 at the break.
Uni-Mil are experiencing their best year in living memory, arriving at Constantia with a nine wins out of 10 record, a narrow loss to Dur-Bell the only blemish on their SLA2022 record.
These victories included one over Maties and another against Hamilton. The Bay, still smarting from an unexpected loss to Brackenfell a fortnight earlier, had had an easy win against Paarl the week earlier to focus on the challenge ahead.
And what a challenge it was. With heavy rains and squalling winds in the morning, scheduled to take a break for the majority of the afternoon, False Bay were victorious in each of the preceding matches on the programme, their Second XV maintaining their unbeaten record and hope for league honours. The visiting support, clearly unafraid of some rain and secure in the knowledge that their decoders would capture the Springboks versus Wales match that afternoon, turned up in droves, confident and in full voice.
“Millies” kicker, wing Alroy Brandt, opened the scoring with a penalty, his goalkicking a constant threat throughout the contest. The first 10 minutes of the contest belonged to the visitors, their halfbacks, scrumhalf Labib Kannemeyer and pivot Junaid Arendse displaying clever play to launch those outside of them.
The Constantia boys weathered this storm and took the lead through a try by hooker Vlam van Vuuren, who slammed into the group off the back of a rolling maul launched from a lineout.
Flyhalf Ewan Adams, who reveled in the contest and his dual with opposite number, Arendse, converted.
The brutal contest up front could be felt in the stands, big, powerful forwards on both sides taking the game to their opponents, not an inch given. Millies’s half-centurion, lock Rohan Aggenbach, amongst those relentless forwards.
Sectional duals were keenly contested, the loose forwards and locks on both sides giving as good as they got, but in the front row, False Bay held the upper hand, where Dave Geffen, Van Vuuren and Tariq Allen certainly put their opponents under the cosh.
Ryan Olivier, regular eighthman, was moved to the second row for this match and had a tremendous impact. His formed a power-duo with partner Busanda Mabena and was the primary source of quality lineout possession, taking the ball just half a step back from five in the line. His leadership in the absence of regular skipper, Thabo Ncongo, was also felt.
Around the end of the first quarter, False Bay scored a try of simple structure yet quality execution, when wing Chadleigh Cloete received the ball with 30 metres to cover after a midfield break off a set move by centre Darren Japhta. Adams converted to give the Bay their half-time lead of 14-3.
With the swirling wind a factor neither side could rely upon, the second half commenced, the visitors clearly high on half-time motivation.
They swarmed their hosts, flooding the breakdown, raising the pace of their game and capitalising on the 50:50 judgement calls which appeared to morph to 45:55 calls in their favour as the contest progressed. Brandt converted two penalties to bring his team to within 5 points and their backs were up.
Tempers were fraying on both sides and handbags were swung on occasion and in the heat Uni-Mil managed a try by wing Dean Tattersall, which “Bulls-eye” Brandt converted.
Home hearts dropped to their seats as Brandt slotted home another penalty. 14-19 and the Bay needed to strike back, quickly, and they did through a try by replacement hooker, George Fritz, which was goaled by Adams.
21-19 with the sands running out on the hourglass and then skipper Olivier found himself banished to the bin for the remaining seven minutes of the contest, a victim of the ongoing scuffles which had crept into the contest.
Facing a marauding Millies with 14 men was going to take all the Bay could muster and the determined visitors narrowed the gap to two with a Brandt penalty.
Two minutes into injury time, flank Leon Carstens collected the ball off a Bay lineout and sprinted the few metres to the line.
False Bay fell victim to the dreaded victory grab at the death and Uni-Mil, who had not beaten the Bay in almost 20 years, exited the pitch proud victors.
False Bay travel to Ravensmead to face Tygerberg on Saturday.
The main game kicks off at 4pm.
• Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.