False Bay RFC continued on their unbeaten course when they ran out victors over Durbanville-Bellville at Durbanville on Saturday. The final score was 33-27 after the Constantia outfit trailed 10-17 at the break.
Durbell appeared favourites in the build-up based on their last outing before a protracted five-week mid-season break. They had unceremoniously thumped Hamiltons a week after the Bay had recorded a draw against the Sea Point powerhouse. That result had club rugby followers abuzz, and Durbell’s potential as SLA title challengers obvious.
The Durbanville-based club are defending Gold Cup Champions. This is the National Club Rugby championship and False Bay are automatic entrants in this year’s competition, which added even more allure to the contest on Saturday.
Played in front of a large crowd, the teams took to a somewhat soft and spongy field, a result of overnight rains, and for the better part of the opening quarter the contest was a typical arm wrestle.
Two large packs of forwards hammering each other at the point of breakdown, with big collisions and brutal tackles. This resulted in a dearth of phase play by the visitors as their opponents effectively negated the Bay’s attempts to get their game going.
Compounding this was a reluctant scrumming technique by the Durbell front row which for the most went unpunished and neutralised to a large degree the powerhouse False Bay front row.
The first score of the match went to the Bay when prop Wesley Chetty broke off the back of a driving maul to crash over at the end of a 15 metre almost-unhindered run. Flyhalf Andri Claasen converted.
Durbell immediately struck back from the kick-off when wing Jason Kriel crashed over from a line move off a scrum. Flyhalf Angus Cleophas converted to level the scores.
Both sides were throwing everything at each other, refusing to blink first and waiting to see who would falter first. Claasen converted a penalty to give the visitors a narrow lead but as with the previous score, Durbell responded immediately with a Cleophas penalty to erase that advantage.
It appeared as if the first half spoils were to be shared until the large travelling support were silenced when centre Jos Malherbe sliced through the Bay defences to score under the poles. Cleophas obliged with the conversion.
False Bay head coach Johnno van der Walt must surely have had some sage words for his charges during the break as almost from the restart whistle, the Bay moved the ball right and then swung it back down the left flank for wing Mustaqueem Jappie to trot over in the corner. Again Durbell struck back quickly with a Cleophas penalty to maintain a five point lead.
The next three scores belonged to False Bay as Claasen converted a penalty and then a few minutes later, threaded a pass to centre Jason Pretorius who scored.
Shortly afterwards big Ryan Olivier crashed over and the Bay had their four-try bonus point. All that was necessary for a full house of league points was the victory but there was much work still to be done.
The Bay warriors were whittling away at their opponents, building a 10 point lead but with sufficient time still on the clock for Durbell to retaliate. Their forwards were beginning to dominate.
Locks Graham Knoop and Brandon Wood were a consistent source of lineout possession, the former physical in his running and inspirational on defence, the latter never shy when it came to contact. Flank Brent Stevens was a forceful presence and Chetty showed his class.
Behind the pack Claasen shored the flyhalf channel with solid defence and used his strength to good advantage on attack and wing Danie Roux caught the eye with some strong running.
A special mention has to be made of fullback Adnaan Osman, who delivered a masterclass all-round performance, showing why he is still one of the top players in the league.
With around 10 minutes to play the hosts reduced the Bay’s lead to three when wing Malherbe, a standout player on the day, scored the second of his brace of tries. Cleophas, another master performer, converted.
Claasen extended the Bay’s lead to six points with a penalty, the last score of the day and the scoreboard monitor’s work was done at 33-27.
Other outstanding players for Durbell were eighthman Conway Pretorius who carried the ball well and thrived on the contest with Olivier.
Left wing Cheslyn Roberts was strong on the run, a constant threat with ball in the hand.
False Bay host Maties at Constantia on Saturday at 3.30pm in what amounts to a league decider.
Stellenbosch University have only played five matches compared to the 10 of the Bay and they are firm challengers for league honours. It promises to be an enthralling encounter.
* Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.