It is an at times cruel twist that the two teams promoted to the league face the top two finishes of the previous season.
It may not always be so, as many a newcomer has startled their more fancied opponents and if the first minute of Saturday’s contest was anything to go by, a surprise was unfolding.
False Bay started with an intensity which may have had their opponents on the ropes, spreading the ball wide and building up to what may have been their opening score.
Instead, NNK fullback Jonty Gray, who caught the eye throughout the contest, latched onto a wide pass in his own 22m area to score under the poles for the hosts. Flyhalf David Weersma converted and the red-shirted home team were seven in the lead.
It was not for long however. It would also be the only time NNK had more points than their opponents during the encounter, the Bay’s superb defence rebuffing any attempts to breach their lines. Four minutes later Bay prop Ashley Wells, somewhat ironically as it was he who delivered the intercept pass, made amends by scoring his team’s opening try.
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The Constantia outfit were dominant in all facets of play. Dominant but not always fluid and accurate in execution. Their phase play was outstanding, their scrum continuously putting their opponents under pressure. Here their accomplished front row of Wesley Chetty, Vlam van Vuuren and Wells were outstanding and when substituted, prop Dabula Khone and hooker Grant Muller impressed.
The Bay lineouts were another source of primary possession, although not always accurate. Lock Brendon Wood, a young man “on loan” from the under-20s is forming a formidable partnership with captain Graham Knoop. One or two of their own lineouts did go awry but they did manage to pilfer a few of their opponents’ put-in.
Evergreen flank Justin van Winkle was immense at the breakdown, while eighthman Ryan Olivier and flank Jodie Reineke were unstoppable with ball in hand. Behind the scrum Dylan Frylinck cleared the ball well and was a nuisance as he sniped around his forwards. Ridhaa Damon took Frylinck’s lead and delivered a polished performance when he replaced the scrumhalf. At the back, wings Mustaqeem Jappie and Justin Filies caught the eye, the latter outstanding on defence while delivering a number of exciting runs, earning a well-deserved try in the process. Jappie was a constant threat to the NNK defences and was rewarded with a try which has become a YouTube favourite, as he hopped, skipped, jumped and then seemingly changed direction in mid-air as he delivered a sidestep which caused whiplash amongst the spectators. Replacement wing, Danie Roux thrived with the possession he was gifted, scoring a brace of tries in his half hour on the pitch.
Indeed it is the Bay’s depth which is encouraging, depth in positions central to their 2016 campaign which includes participation in the Gold Cup at the end of the season. The competition between players in various positions is healthy, raising the quality of play while contributing to a positive and competitive team dynamic.
With a scoreline such as Saturday’s it would be easy to focus on one team, and indeed False Bay’s dominance was pretty much complete. However both teams ran the ball at every opportunity, with credit due to NNK who could so easily have closed shop to restrict their opponents, instead never capitulating and contesting throughout. Weersma at pivot marshalled proceedings well while try-scorer Grey shone throughout. Captain and eighthman Brandon Grant led his team from the front.
This was not a clinical performance by the Bay. They squandered possession through scrappy handling, leaving as much as 20 points littered across the pitch. Goalkicking was also a little wayward but Bay flyhalf, Andri Claasen had a good match otherwise and will most certainly address his inaccuracy on the day. On the positive, the Constantia team immediately recovered from an early setback to dominate their opponents. They ticked all of the boxes on the coach’s clipboard, none the least overcoming determined hosts keen to make a strong statement upon return to the top league.
Scorers for False Bay were Wells, Reineke, Frylinck, Jappie, Filies, Olivier, Claasen and Roux (2). Claasen converted three as well as one penalty. NNK’s points came from the Gray try as well as a Weersma conversion and penalty kick.
False Bay RFC were meant to host UWC at Constantia this Saturday. The match has been postponed to accommodate UWC’s Varsity Cup promotion relegation match against UCT on Monday. Their next match is away to Belhar the following week.
* Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.