Pniel Villagers at home was always going to be a tricky fixture having not played them in many years they were for all intents and purposes an unknown force to Village. Right from kick off Pniel were bossing the game with their fast, appealing, backline focused style of play. This served as quite a wake up to Village with the boys having to “vasbyt” as Pniel turned on the screws. The defence however held and ended up saving a few certain try’s but in the end giving up a penalty. Pniel converted. 0-3. Village then started to find their feet using their impeccable lineout, with Ziyaad Fredericks at hooker spot on, and from this solid base drove almost flawlessly. This pressure eventually led to a Village penalty which Clarke converted. 3-3. The scene was now set as it became clear that this was going to be a real arm wrestle of an afternoon. Pniel were here to play and Village had to be on their toes.
Pniel hit back with another penalty – a real ding dong battle. 3-6. Then eventually the Pniel outside told as they carved through our backs on the outside from a relatively innocuous position on the halfway line. Warning bells were starting to ring in the Village camp. Pniel converted 13-3.
Village however weren’t going to let Pniel get their own way all afternoon as for the next 15 minutes of the half they completely dominated, camping in the Pniel half, using their effective lineout drive mixed in with pick and go’s. Finally the kink in the Pniel defence appeared as Nic Vetsos went over in close quarters. Clarke converted. 10-13 and game back on. Just before the first half ended Fredericks (hooker) had to leave the field with an injury to his elbow. Unfortunate turn of events for a lineout that was proving to be the thorn in Pniel’s side.
Half time then arrived and the general feeling was that this one could go either way.
Village started off the 2nd half as they ended the first with Pniel clearly frustrated by the tight manner in which Village were keeping the play. Very soon into the half Village were awarded a penalty around the Pniel 10m and Clarke converted. 13-13. Then almost from nothing on the Village 10m line Pniel were awarded a free kick from a lineout offence and Pniel quick tapped, spread the ball down their elusive backline and ended off with a superb score in the far corner. The conversion was completed. 13-20.
Village then came back with another another Clarke penalty 16-20.
With Village’ lineout now not as effective as in the 1st half the release of pressure on Pniel could be felt as the game opened up a bit more. For a team like Pniel this is a god send. Eventually, as per all afternoon, they attacked the blind side but this time some indifferent defence by Village allowed them over in the corner. The conversion was missed. 16-25.
Now with not much to lose and chasing the game Village came hard at Pniel and pressured their line with real intensity. Finally, and right in front of the faithful Village supporters, Scotty Pitcher bulldozed over for a try next to the poles. Was this going to be the turning point for Village. With approximately 10 minutes to play the game was now in the balance. Clarke converted. 23-25.
For the remainder of the game Pniel expertly held onto the pill as they forced Village to attack from their own half when they did have possession. This led to a further two penalties to Pniel as they closed the game and Village out. Final score 23-31 to Pniel Villagers. A deserved victory in what was an exemplary, clean and hard fought game of club rugby.
From the Village side Dan Clarke must be commended for his ever reliable kicking for poles and in the front flanker Scotty Pitcher carried impressively and was effective in the loose.
Village are off to our friends at Goodwood next week. Always a fun afternoon out there.