Villager FC, under immense pressure to regain their winning ways, kept their promotion hopes alive when they claimed a 7 – 5 victory against a well organised and physical Pniel Villagers RFC at Brookside on Friday night. The half time score was 0 – 0.
In one of the most pressurised games of this year’s WP SLB, Villager FC had no choice but to win against Pniel Villagers if they wished to remain in the running for the top two automatic promotion spots on offer. Had Villager lost they would almost certainly have fell out of the running guaranteeing St George’s and Sir Lowrians the prime spots, however with their last gasp try five minutes from fulltime, Villager have kept the title race alive until they face off against Sir Lowrians this coming Saturday in the unofficial SLB ‘winner-takes-all’ finale.
Although Villager FC emerged victorious, Pniel can rightly feel aggrieved that they did not come away with the win as they easily left 21 points out on the park as a result of their misfiring kickers, as well as missing out on a certain try after the ball was knocked on over the line. Had the kicks been converted or the try scored, the game may well have ended differently, and although Villager also missed out on more points, one feels that the visitors had the better chances.
With that said however, Villager did control the early exchanges, dominated the lineout and held the ascendency in the territory and possession stats in the first half. Although traditionally dominating territory and possession is an indication of dominance in a match, the SLB has proven this otherwise, a fact Villager has agonisingly learnt over the last few weeks.
However Villager did have the opportunity to score early on after a period of attacking dominance moved them forward to within the Pniel five meter line, only to be thwarted by the visitor’s passionate defence time and again. With the scoring opportunity lost, one must question the Villager logic of turning down the easy three points on offer after they were awarded a penalty near the posts shortly before. Have the last few weeks not indicated that at this stage of the season wins matter more than bonus points?
Be that as it may the Villager attack did look promising when their big ball carriers such as Ashley Clarke, Andrew Wilkins, Ryan Germishuys and David Radloff came into the game, however their efforts were thwarted by handling errors and poor breakdown execution. Had Villager been able to hold onto the ball at crucial periods and maintain their attacking momentum they may well have been rewarded with more scoring opportunities.
In stark contrast to the Villager policy of turning down the three pointers on offer, Pniel grabbed every chance they could; unfortunately with their kickers misfiring on the day they were unable to claim the two opportunities they deservedly won to take the lead in the second quarter. With the visitors slowly asserting more pressure on the home team’s defence as a result of their kicking game and quick counter attacks, Pniel did come close to scoring a try after turning the ball over in the Villager 22m, but knocked the ball on over the line ensuring both teams went into the half scoreless.
The second half brought with it a more pronounced game plan by the visitors based on the astute tactical kicking of flyhalf Lance Ruthford, a tactic which bore fruit when they were awarded two kickable penalties, which were not converted. It must be noted however, that the territorial ascendency the visitors enjoyed during this period came only as a result of the home team’s refusal to kick for territory in return.
This inability to vary their attacking game has proven to be the Brooksider’s weakness over the last few weeks as opposition defences have fronted up to their big ball carriers and prevented the momentum required to gain reward for this tactic. However in saying that, they certainly had their fair share of scoring opportunities during this period, unfortunately as was the case in the first half, handling errors and penalties conceded proved to be their undoing.
With no score yet posted and time running out, Pniel finally broke the deadlock when they counter attacked from a poor clearance kick to score a crucial try in the corner through outside centre Smartryk Fisher. Thankfully for the Brooksider’s the conversion went astray ensuring the visitors only led by five with 15 minutes to go.
With renewed vigour Villager attacked relentlessly, but again errors prevented them from gaining any reward for their dominance. However one such period of attack moved them a good 40 meters forwards culminating in a penalty on the Pniel five meter line. With only five minutes left, and the kick at poles hardly an option, the decision was made to take the quick tap. With Ashley Clarke taking it up and sucking in defenders, the platform was laid for big ball carrying prop, Ryan Germishuys to once again prove his worth. With 5 meters to run and with six defenders on him, Germishuys managed to turn himself in the tackle and fall over the line to score one of his more important tries this season. Referee JC Fortuin was perfectly placed to award the try, equalising the scores at 5 five all with the conversion to come. In one of the most pressurised kicks this season, albeit in an easy position, flyhalf Tim Marsh calmly slotted the conversion to move his side into a two point lead with only four minutes remaining.
As is often the case in moments like these it is the side who remains the calmest that prevails, and it must be said Villager were superb in the last four minutes. Although they conceded possession with two minutes left, their defence was superb in keeping the dangerous Pniel attackers at bay, eventually tackling the ball out with time up. With the sound of the whistle Villager emerged from this must win encounter with the vital four log points they so desperately needed.
Head Coach Gunner Hughes was a relieved man afterwards. “That was a close call, Pniel are a classy side who really pushed us all the way and most certainly deserved to win as well, but I’m proud of the way the fellas pulled it off in the end.” He said. “Although our goal at the start of the year was not promotion, the team are now hell-bent on achieving it now that they are so close.”
With an eye towards next weekend Hughes believes his side are considerable underdogs. “Sir Lowrians are a great team, they have some big names and have done really well this year.” He said. “Although we are playing at home, “The Navy Train” will no doubt bring out their support en masse and will be desperately keen to finish number one. We will have to be prepared for that as best we can.”
Villager FC would like to thank Pniel Villagers for an entertaining game of rugby that was played in phenomenal spirit, and wish them all the best in their remaining games. Villager FC play their final game of the SLB League this coming Saturday against Sir Lowrians at Brookside in the clash that will determine the final log standings of the top three as well as determine which club gains automatic promotion. More news and permutations will follow later in the week.
Try: Ryan Germishuys (1)
Conv: Tim Marsh (1)
Try: Smartryk Fisher (1)
1. Troy Lee 2. Scott Pitcher 3. Ryan Germishuys 4. Richard Williams 5. Kwaks Ngwanya 6. Brodie Blows 7. Andrew Wilkins 8. Ashley Clarke (CPT) 9. Daniel Anderson10. Tim Marsh 11. Blane Hansen 12. David Radloff 13. Stuart Pattison (V/C) 14. Christo Terblanche15. Jethro Valentine
Pniel Villagers RFC
15. Kyle Martinusen 14. Granville Petersen 13. Smartryk Fisher 12. Earl Petersen 11. Gavin Petersen 10. Lance Ruthford 9. Dillan Siegelaar 8. Lee- Heino Appollis 7. Hyco Jacobs 6. PJ Robyn 5. Shane De Wet 4. Darrol Hanekom 3. Chadley Lackay 2. Dillon Faro 1. Alburn Natus