After a bye last week the Village boys were raring to go and continue their unbeaten away record. Helderberg have struggled this season but it is always a tough encounter with them being such a passionate and fighting club having brought themselves back from a dubious financial position at the beginning of the year. Unlike two weeks ago against Strand where it felt like Village should have been windsurfing rather than playing rugby the conditions were close to perfect – clear skies , no wind and an exceptional playing surface.
Village came out of the sheds firing with some impressive ball retention and building of phases. The holes were there as runners ran effectively off Dan Clarke at pivot. Nic Wood (Hooker), Kwaks Ngwanya (8), Donal Crawford (centre) and Scotty Pitcher (flank) all breached the defense with clean breaks but unfortunately the support were not able to finish off. The first 20 minutes were all Village and all that came from it was a penalty. Then against the run of play one of the Helderberg outside backs pounced on a Village mistake in the Helderberg 22m and expertly finished off. It was clear from this that Helderberg possessed speed on the outside.
The try lifted Helderberg as their big pack started to dominate and give their backs good ball. They spread all the ball they got and found acres of space on the outside. Something was not quite working in organization on defense. This pressure started to tell as eventually Village let through an extremely soft try culminating from a scrum on their own 5m through a simple hands by the Helderberg backs with the wing scoring in the corner. The try was converted 3-12 Helderberg. Villager needed to wake up and wake up fast.
Helderberg however continued and were not letting down. They scored again from a lineout drive. Once again converted and Village in heaps of trouble at 3-19 down.
At this stage the Village players from the other teams that played earlier in the day decided enough is enough and started to gee the guys on big time. This burst of support for the guys got them going as Nik Vetsos (prop) continued his extraordinary season (5th try in 6 games) by bursting over following a clinical lineout drive. Clarke converted. 10-19. This brought about half-time and a proper drubbing by the coaches.
Villager started the 2nd half like men possessed with Ashley Clarke (8) and Jannie Bester (flank) coming off the bench to bring in some new energy and experience. They used the direct approach to hit the Helderberg line but the defense was solid as the Village forwards probably over did it as a simple spread of the ball would probably have done the job. Eventually though the hole was created as Zubs Abrahams (scrumhalf) dived over. Clarke converted 17-19 and Villager back in the game.
Helderberg then hit back with a brilliant try ended off neatly by their left wing, who was enjoying a good game. They converted 17-26.
Villager didn’t let this get to them as they slowly started to get their grip back on the game. Eventually the pressure told as the Helderberg number 14 intercepted and was away but the referee correctly adjudged him offside. Clarke took the right call and kicked the penalty from the Helderberg 10m. 20-26.
Village were next to score as Ashley Clarke showed Incredible Hulk strength to carry over the ball and about 3 Helderberg forwards on his back. The ex Racing Metro man came on at half time and put in some enormous hits and giving some opposition players serious headaches with his strong carries. Once again brother Dan Clarke converted. Villager in the lead for the first time. 27-26.
At this stage it felt like this one was in the bag even though the difference was only 1 point. The sizeable Helderberg pack were clearly tiring and Village had the upper hand in all facets. Inexplicably however Village lost concentration and gave away a cynical penalty in front of their own poles. The penalty was converted. 27-29 and 3 minutes to play.
With the Village support now in full cry the guys were not letting this one go easily. Village re-gathered the ball and hit the Helderberg defense with everything but the kitchen sink. Eventually the referee put his arm up on the 10m line about 15m inside the touch line. Zubs purposely knocked the ball on and captain courageous, Dan Clarke, took the ball and pointed to the poles. With just about no time on the board Clarke needed to convert to win. As it left his foot there was no doubt as Clarke turned. The Village supporters went wild. 30-29. Kwaks Ngwanya soared high to collect the kick off and the game ended. Shew – that was too close for any supporters ‘nerves. A great game of club rugby.
Dan Clarke had a great game marshalling the game well from flyhalf and ofcourse putting on a flawless kicking game however man-of-the-match went to Brodie Blows who has been exceptional the last few weeks. Brodie’s work rate is out of this world and punches well above his weight. A Village great in the making.
Villager are playing Collegians at Brookside on Friday night. Kick off 9pm.