Stellenbosch University scored a try in the last move of the match to snatch victory from False Bay, popularly regarded as deserved winners in their SLA semi-final at City Park on Saturday.
The Maties led 12-10 when the teams changed ends at the break.
The start of the eagerly awaited match was delayed to accommodate the SLB semi-final between St Georgians of Strand and Hamlets of Mamre, which had to go into extra time and with that, promotion to the SLA.
Wing Mustaqeem Jappie, in his 100th appearance for False Bay, led his team onto the pitch, the diminutive dynamo cutting a pensive and proud image as he waited in the tunnel to start the team pitch entrance.
Maities gained automatic entry into the semi-finals by virtue of their top of the table finish after the round-robin stages, while the Bay had to overcome Union-Milnerton in their quarter final at Constantia a week earlier.
This they did in fine fashion, overwhelming their opponents 83-36 in a performance which broadcast False Bay as a serious threat to the students.
As the euphoria of the earlier match subsided and the teams took to the field, the air of anticipation was disturbed somewhat.
After a scoreless opening quarter hour, Maties centre Cornel Smit intercepted a False Bay pass on his own quarter line and outran the cover defence to put his team five points in the lead.
Sunned, the Bay fought their way back.
They were rocked back by when the students took a tight head on their own quarter line, launched a high up-and-under, which wing Munier Hartzenberg handsomely collected in the air and then set off for the try line once he touched the terrafirma, scoring under the poles with barely a hand touching him.
Fly-half Ryno Fortuin converted for his team’s last score of the half.
False Bay had the ascendance in the contest to that point yet were trailing on the scoreboard.
They showed resolve and great character and set about getting themselves onto the scoreboard.
Fullback Adnaan Osman broke the duck behind his team on the scoreboard with a penalty.
The Bay stuck to their shape and plan, exerting tremendous pressure on their opponents, maintaining their dominance in the contest which eventually was reflected on the board.
Wing Justin Fillies, the standout player for False Bay, showed his pace and class with a 25 metre sprint at the end of a backline move to score in the corner.
Osman, ever the reliable, converted.
A two-point game at the break and there was an air of self-confidence creeping into the Bay support.
That confidence was somewhat supped as four minutes into the second stanza, Maties employed the much aligned rolling maul from a lineout which saw Johan van Niekerk the last to stand up and claim the try.
Fortuin converted and the daylight in the scoreline appeared ominous.
The Bay had other ideas though. Osman clawed his team back with another penalty to reduce the Maties lead to six with half an hour to play.
The end of the third quarter saw Maties suffer their second yellow card, this time for a no-arms tackle and the students were down to fourteen men facing a marauding Bay.
A confident and determined False Bay opted for a scrum on their opponents five-metre line, the students down a man in the pack by virtue of the card.
After two resets scrums, the Bay dominant in all, wild-haired scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson picked up off the base and wormed his way over the line.
Osman’s conversion gave False Bay the lead for the first time in the contest, a solitary point the difference between the teams on the board.
With a quarter of an hour to play, a lead of a single point to defend, the Bay buckled down to keep their opponents, adept at escape acts at the death, in check for the rest of the contest.
This task became exponentially more difficult as seven minutes from time, False Bay suffered a red card for a dangerous tackle.
Galvinised, Thabo Ngcongo’s brave men put their bodies on the line to keep their line intact, repulsing the Maties attack as they stretched out for that score which would wrest the lead from the Constantia team.
The Constantia boys stood firm, and as the sand in the hourglass began to run quicker, it appeared as if they had defended their way to a deserved victory. Fate however, and the endeavor of the students had different plans and Mitchell Carstens gave his team the lead and victory.
The scene on the pitch was one of complete contrast. The jubilant Maties exchange hugs and other forms of victory expression, while False Bay cut a desolate image, their heartbreak felt across the stadium. They had done everything in their power to win and had they banked the result, not many would have disputed their worth as victors on the day.
Maties went on to lose 22-13 to Durbanville-Bellville in the final and thus surrendering they SLA title.
Durbel had seemingly went to the last two games with a scripture meant to give the students some hard lessons as they also beat UCT in the semis.
Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.