In a physical, entertaining encounter, hosts Brackenfell RFC surprised the more fancied False Bay RFC to run out 38-31 winners on Saturday, after trailing 14-19 at the break.
Visitors False Bay were led onto the pitch by their standout wing of the past twelve years, Danie Roux, playing in his 150th match for the Bay.
The Brackenfell pitch is the graveyard of many teams, for any number of reasons the nail in their coffins. The narrow pitch, which rapidly runs out of space like an ebb tide; the apparent list of the ground running down from left to right; and in the case of Saturday, the wind making the winning of the toss critical, common traps for visitors and vital aids for a home team which plays and practices on that turf every week. Wily coach Thinus van Rensburg confidently held these factors in mind and prepared his team to deliver a shock result.
“Brakke” as they are affectionately known, sounded their intent from the outset, camping in the Bay half for the first quarter hour, and opening the score-sheet with a try by scrumhalf Clayton Daniels, which was goaled by centre Dan Aspeling.
The lacklustre Bay were somewhat rocked by the early score and proceeded to escape their half and exert pressure on their hosts, working their way down the pitch; lock Ettienne Oosthuizen eventually scoring in the fifteen metre channel off a lineout. A few minutes later, Oosthuizen doubled his try tally for the day and the Bay took a five-point lead after Dylon Frylinck converted.
Brackenfell was a team on fire. They ran straight and hard with ball in hand, the aforementioned pitch width demanding this ploy. Here Aspeling stood out, his pace and bulk taking his team to the gain line and beyond, and his effect was none more evident when he stepped and crossed the line for his team’s second try. With a sizeable crowd willing the Stormers on to victory in the clubhouse, the travelling Bay faithful were doing the same outside. All that was needed was for False Bay to click, a reboot as such to unshackle themselves from the constraints of the smothering Brakke defence.
That break appeared to come when Frylinck crossed for the Bay’s third try, which was converted by half-back partner Ewan Adams. The mercurial flyhalf, Adams had been setting the resolute Brakke defences aflutter with his fleet-footed stepping until he took a massive hit, a tackle which saw him receive medical attention for a while and resulted in his eventual departure. Nevertheless, False Bay changed ends with a five-point lead, not nearly enough with the wind in their faces in the second half.
So it was proved to be, a slender lead compounded by a 10-minute sin bin rest for pack cornerstone, eighthman Ryan Olivier, a reduction in personnel which was harshly punished by Brackenfell, as they stunned False Bay with two tries during that period. Aspelling converted both and then gave the hammer another smack with a penalty to extend his team’s lead to twelve with at least 25 minutes of the half to go. With the Bay back to fifteen men, Brakke pivot, Jandre Grobler crossed for a try and Aspeling’s conversion put Brackenfell on double False Bay’s 19 points.
It was game over for False Bay. Or was it? Coach Johnno van der Merwe had introduced his full bench by now and the change in tempo and determination was obvious. The Constantia-based team took the game to their opponents, striking back with a brace of tries by reserve scrumhalf, Bradley Thain. The bustling number nine had brought an edge to the Bay’s attack, as is expected of all occupying the bench. His first try was not converted but fullback Darian Hock, now running proceedings at flyhalf, converted his second to make it a seven point game.
With extended injury breaks in the second half making referee’s optional extra time a possible factor, the Bay were hard on attack and every time there was a break in play, home support were heard to gasp as he allowed play to continue, and the determined visitors relentlessly pushed to score.
Eventually full time was called and Brackenfell exited deserved winners to the delight of the sizeable home support, their five league-point victory invaluable to their season as Durbell, Maties and a few other tough opponents loom.
• Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.