The fairy tale resurgence and the unbeaten record Villager FC have enjoyed in this year’s WP SLB came to a spectacular end after a fanatically determined St Georges side stunned the Brookside faithful when they emerged 21 – 17 victors on Saturday 9 August. Half time score was 7 – 6 in favour of the home team.
As is often the case in sport the team that wants it the most usually comes away with the spoils. There are exceptions to the rule of course, but often previous records or talented player’s count for nothing when one team is desperate to win. This is not to say the Villager team were complacent or had lost their desire to win. On the contrary in fact when one analyses the game afterwards, they had numerous chances to score and seal the game especially in the first half, but poor option taking, a lack of patience and the unbelievably passionate defence shown by the visitors confined the Brooksider’s to their first defeat in this year’s SLB.
This is not to say St Georges weren’t full value for their victory however. Although they were much lighter on average and were outmuscled up front for most of the afternoon, their superior speed, finishing, discipline and their individual tackling abilities were hallmarks of their game which deservedly culminated in a famous win at Brookside for the boys from Strand.
Although losing at home does take some gloss off of the game when looking back, to say it was not an exciting one for the spectators would do the player’s on-field endeavours a disservice. St Georges clearly aimed to move the bigger Villager team around the park in an attempt to nullify their size disadvantage and make use of their faster players and skill sets, a tactic which has often been used against the “Dirty Whites” this year. However what was strange and completely uncharacteristic for the home side was their decision to utilise the same tactics, somehow forgetting that they possess one of the best forward packs in the league, a pack which had up until Saturday won them ten games from ten.
The decision to play wide and loose can be attributed to the fact that the St Georges defensive structure lacked shape and cohesion at times especially in the first quarter where the game was played at a high intensity and pace. The plethora of space in the wider channels obviously enticed the more expansive approach and it was no surprise when Villager made early inroads and came desperately close to scoring on a number of occasions through Jannie Bester, Tim Marsh and Daniel Anderson who were only thwarted by the “Lulu’s” lightening quick and desperate scramble defence. Through the efforts of Fullback Patrick van Wyk, inside centre Eldon Hess and scrumhalf Harry Finger, Villager were often left to rue their missed chances.
Although Villager battled to score as a result of the Lulu’s determination to tackle anyone who had the ball into submission, they did eventually cross the whitewash after a driving maul successfully created the space necessary for centre David Radloff to beat his man which put winger Blane Hansen into space to dot down under the posts. Flyhalf Tim Marsh converted giving his side a seven point lead, and with the amount of near misses, one would be forgiven into thinking that more tries would surely follow.
How wrong they were. Rather than accept the early set back, St George’s determination was quickly evident in the way they struck back on attack, forcing a penalty in front of the posts after Captain Ashley Clarke was pinged for hands in at the breakdown. The three pointer was converted by van Wyk, who claimed another one shortly thereafter when referee Stefaan Du Toit controversially penalised and yellow carded Hooker Scott Pitcher for side entry at the breakdown after St Georges looked certain to score after an intercept run saw them run 40 meters only to be brought down five meters from the line by Scrumhalf Daniel Anderson.
Although Villager dominated for most of the first half and created numerous opportunities which they could and possibly should have scored, their penchant for forcing half chances rather than patiently build the phases and play a more structured game plan ensured they went into the half with only a one point lead and a yellow card to show for their efforts. If St Georges were to claim an important away victory they would only need to strike first in the second half to put the pressure onto the home team.
As if according to script St Georges did just that, making use of the their numerical advantage in the forwards, they began picking and driving through the middle creating the space out wide for flanker Dale Wilson to finish off in the corner. Although the conversion was missed, the score put the visitors in the lead for the first time and placed the onus on the home team to score next. This Villager tried to do shortly thereafter when the free kick they were awarded in the Lulu’s 22 went horribly wrong and ended up in an 80 meter turnaround and try in the corner for the visitors through van Wyk. As if to add insult to injury van Wyk converted his try from the corner to further his sides lead to eleven points.
If ever there was a need for Villager to return to their structured approach this was it, however as much as they tried, poor option taking, lost lineouts and handling errors all contributed to a frustrating period that only succeeded in piling on the pressure for the home side. Villager did hit back eventually after Ashley Clarke ran his usual customary barge through the defence which created the momentum necessary for powerfully built winger, Brent Sanders to crash over in the corner to claim the first of his brace for the afternoon. With the conversion missed, Villager trailed by six points, only one converted try adrift.
The final nail in the coffin for the Dirty Whites came shortly afterwards when Ashley Clarke was again pinged at the breakdown in front of the posts which van Wyk gladly converted moving his side to a nine point lead. The penalty meant that Villager now had to score two tries rather than the one if they were to claim the win, and time was running out.
Villager threw everything they had at the Lulu’s and came close to scoring the two tries in the subsequent ten minutes, but once again their looseness on attack combined with their strange decision to go off the top off the lineout rather than utilise the maul, which has worked so well this year, let them down hugely. They did eventually score after scrumhalf Daniel Anderson slowed the game down exceptionally well and forced the pick and drive strategy which brought the home team’s bigger pack back into play again. The change in tactic worked and they were rewarded with a try in the corner through Brent Sanders. Marsh missed the conversion and crucially the Lulu’s led by four points going into the final five minutes.
The last throw of the dice for the home team came when their pack forced numerous penalties on the Lulu’s try line which referee Stefaan Du Toit had no choice but to hand out a yellow card to front rower Franco Rabie for repeated infringements. With a numerical advantage in the forwards but with no time left on the clock to set up a lineout drive, Villager were forced into pick and drives in front of their screaming home supporters. The pressure was eventually going to tell on either side, but it was Villager who succumbed first after Ryan Germishuys knocked the ball on centimetres short of the line.
With the final whistle sounding immediately after, the travelling supporters were ecstatic and rushed the field to congratulate their courageous team who against all the odds had claimed a famous victory at Brookside in their first ever meeting with Villager FC. The fact that they defended like their lives depended on it, took their chances when they came and never gave up ensured they were deserved winners at the end of the day.
Coach Gunner Hughes accepted that his side were well beaten. “I thought St Georges were superb this afternoon. They came out here to win and truly believed in each other.” He said. “The fact that they prevented us from scoring on numerous occasions is testament to their team spirit and I congratulate them on that.”
Hughes believed his side will take some good lessons from the loss. “Losing is not fun for any team, but we are still in a great position to win this league, but the fellas will have to really knuckle down now and prove to themselves that they can do this.” He said. “We face Hamlets in Mamre this weekend which is exceptionally tough but I know the team is hurting so it will be a good test for them on Saturday.”
As a result of the loss to St Georges the SLB log has become a four team race with only three rounds to go. Had Villager won they would have almost certainly secured promotion, however with them being equal on points with Sir Lowrians and St Georges and Pniel Villagers only two and seven points behind respectively, Villager will now need to win at least two of their next three games with the final game against Sir Lowrians seemingly set up as the league decider.
Try: B.Hansen (2), B. Sanders (1)
Conversion: Tim Marsh (1)
St Georges Scorers:
Tries: Dale Wilson, Patrick van Wyk
Conversion: Patrick van Wyk (1)
Penalty: Patrick van Wyk (3)
1. A. Cleophas 2. S. Pitcher 3. R. Germishuys 4. R. Williams 5. A. Coetzee 6. J. Bester 7. B. Blows 8. A. Clarke (CPT) 9. D. Anderson 10. T. Marsh 11. B. Sanders 12. D. Radloff 13. S. Pattison (V/C) 14. B. Hansen 15. J. Valentine
16. J. Kaiser 17. T. Lee 18. A. Wilkins 19. K. Ngwanya 20. C. Terblanche 21. L. Gabriel 22. G. Van Reyneveldt
St Georges RFC:
1. Brandon Steyn 2. Megan Rose 3. Franco Rabie 4. Clive Meyer 5. Noel Paige 6. Trevino Alfestus 7. Dale Wilson 8. Isadore Armien (CPT) 9. Harry Finger 10. Morne Adams (V/C) 11. Esli Noble 12. Eldon Hess 13. Fabian Filander 14. Michael la Meyer 15. Patrick van Wyk
16. Garth Louw 17. Dillon Patience 18. Ashley Riffel 19. Emile Chacane 20. Kerwin Felton 21. Raymon Bergsted 22. Alvino Hartley