In a turn around that has caught many a naysayer off guard, Villager FC have started the 2014 SLB season with a bang having claimed their third victory in a row after they overcame a hugely physical Union Milnerton side at a misty Theo Marais Park 23 – 20 on Friday night. Half time score 20 – 3.
The old adage of a game of two halves aptly describes the fixture between Villager FC and Union Milnerton where Villager seemed to be on track for yet another big victory at half time after scoring two converted tries and two penalties to lead 20 points to 3, however the tenacious Milnerton side refused to lie down that easily and came back in the 2nd half with a voracity that had Villager reeling under the immense pressure.
Villager started off the game in what has become their typical style by dominating the physical exchanges and stretching the oppositions defence until breaking point, unfortunately silly errors and poor kicking options by Villager ensured the pressure exerted by their big ball carriers was not capitalised on which led to a scrappy first quarter partly as a result of the severe mist that moved onto the field.
Villager were eventually rewarded for their attacking endeavours through a driving maul try, scored by openside flank Jannie Bester. Flyhalf Daniel Clarke converted giving Villager a 7 – 0 lead. Shortly thereafter lock Ryan Bezuidenhout, who otherwise had a sterling game, conceded a penalty after a high tackle which Milnerton gladly accepted to close the gap to 4 points. Village struck back with two more penalties through their ever reliable goal kicker, Daniel Clarke, to give Villager a healthy 13 – 3 lead.
Going into the 2nd quarter both teams were struggling to put the phases together with poor kicks dominating proceedings with neither team being able to capitalise, although Milnerton came close to scoring on a number of occasions but the sound defence of the Village wings, Jethro Valentine and Donny Venter as well as fullback and man of the match, James Allderman, ensured Milnerton never got over the whitewash. The highlight of the half came when Village captain Ashley Clarke took a quick tap in his own half and stepped up the intensity levels of the Brookside team to set up a try for the ever present flank Jannie Bester to claim his second for the match. Clarke converted to move Village into a comfortable lead going into the half.
Half time score 20 – 3.
Milnerton fans could have been forgiven to think that Villager were well on their way to securing another big win away from home and by the way the Dirty Whites began the second half it seems the players thought it too, for the intensity of the first half made way for the lethargic performance of the second that may well have ended in defeat.
Although warned of the unpredictability of the SLB, Villager were not prepared for the onslaught dished out by the Milnerton side bolstered by clever substitutions at half time. Milnerton caught the Villager side unawares after a tactical change tightened up the game using their driving maul to devastating effect. The forward momentum of the Milnerton pack eventually began to tell at the breakdown where they forced numerous turnovers and ensured Villager were starved of most of the 2nd half possession.
Whilst the Villager defence was good for the most part, Milnerton were eventually rewarded for their efforts through a try by their inspired flyhalf replacement. That set in motion a stunning comeback that not many would have predicted beforehand. Milnerton converted bringing the scores to 20 – 10.
Villager tried to improve the score line through a Clarke penalty kick, but uncharacteristically Clarke’s usually reliable boot went astray in the 2nd half allowing Milnerton to sniff an unlikely victory. Villager tried desperately to get their game plan working, but numerous errors and turnovers prevented them regaining the ascendency. After one such effort, a strike move from their scrum failed to breach the gain line which Milnerton used to turn over the ball and move it quickly through the hands to their quick wings to score a great try in the corner. The conversion was missed narrowing the score to five.
Villager, under immense pressure, were relieved to be awarded a penalty in Milnerton’s half after their replacement scrumhalf drifted offside at a scrum allowing Clarke to convert a vital three pointer that put Village ahead by eight points.
After a sustained period of pressure in the forwards Milnerton were rewarded with a penalty on the Villager 5mtr line which they used to launch another driving maul that sucked in ample defenders inviting the long pass that led to the Milnerton wing crashing over in the corner to score a thrilling try that brought the home crowd to their feet. Crucially two of Milnerton’s three tries were scored in the corners and ultimately both conversions were missed which gave Village a crucial three point cushion going into the last five minutes.
A tense last few minutes ensued with both sides throwing everything at each other to claim a vital victory, and when the referee gave a dubious penalty to Milnerton after a Villager driving maul looked set to finish the game, the players had no choice but to face the superbly executed Milnerton maul once more. Milnerton set up their maul and made big inroads towards the Villager line passing out to their backline and running numerous phases in the Village 22m. Fortunately for the travelling fans Milnerton coughed up the ball on the Villager 5mtr line bringing an end to a thrilling game and handing the Dirty Whites their third league victory in a row.
Head Coach Andrew Hughes was a relieved man after the game believing the side needed a game like that, “Without a doubt we needed a game like this to really show what we are made of, runaway victories do now build character like a tight finish can so I am proud of the way the team stuck it out and claimed a crucial away win.”
Captain Ashley Clarke believed the side has lots to learn from this, “We have definitely learnt a lot about ourselves as a team tonight. We started the game nicely but let ourselves down hugely in the 2nd half. Milnerton were physical but I believe we were to blame at times by giving our ball away too easily. Possession is important in this league and we have to respect the ball more than we have done so, but I am proud of the way the guys stuck together to get the win.”
The Villager win did not come without any casualties with the biggest setback to the side being the injury to lock Brent Wienandt who has torn ligaments in his ankle and will be out for the remainder of the year. We wish him all the best during his recovery.
Special mention must be made to scrumhalf Christo Terblanche who played in his 50th game for the Villager 1st XV on Friday night. Christo joined the club in 2009 from Wynberg Boys High School and has not looked back since. He has been an integral member of the club through thick and thin and was one of the shining lights in last years 1st XV. The club congratulates him on his special achievement.
Next game for the Dirty Whites is against Young Peoples away on Saturday 10 May.
Tries: Jannie Bester (2)
Conv: Daniel Clarke (2)
Pen: Daniel Clarke (3)
Tries: MacAllistair Korah, Anwar Moerat, Jaco v Wyk
Conv: MacAllistair Korah
Pen: Ignatius Prinsloo
1st XV vs Milnerton:
1. A. Cleophas, 2. S. Pitcher 3. R. Germishuys, 4. R. Bezuidenhout, 5. S. Buerger, 6. J. Bester, 7. LT. Stamper, 8. A. Clarke (cpt), 9. D. Anderson, 10. D. Clarke, 11. D. Venter, 12. D. Radloff, 13. S. Pattison, 14. J. Valentine, 15. J. Allderman
16. C. Fitzgerald , 17. A. Coetzee, 18. B. Wienand, 19. B. Blows, 20. C. Henson, 21. C. Terblanche, 22. B. Sanders