Top of the log Villager FC stretched their unbeaten run of victories to seven after sneaking past a resolute Brackenfell side by eight points to six on a typically stormy Cape Town winters day at Brookside on Saturday 31 May.
The weather conditions were never going to make this game a high scoring affair, however the inability of both sides to finish off their opportunities as well as the regular blast of referee Ivan Solomon’s whistle ensured the game never really got going until the last quarter when both teams eventually woke up to the fact that either side could in fact win.
Although Villager missed numerous opportunities to score due to various factors, they can count themselves lucky to win owing to the fact that 18 points went abegging for the visitors due to the misfiring boot of flyhalf Rayvin Rademeyer in the swirling conditions at Brookside. However it was Rademeyer who kicked the first points of the match and kept his side in the lead with his second half penalty up until the last five minutes.
Playing with the strong North Westerly wind in the first half Brackenfell realised their need for points that saw most opportunities being taken albeit with the majority of them either pushed wide or falling short. Villager were kept in the game as a result and needed no second invitation to launch effective counter attacks that could have ended in long range tries had better options been taken.
Although the conditions made it incredibly difficult for both teams lineouts to function, Villager did eventually get their maul going, one drive moving forward well over 30 meters before Referee Solomon awarded a penalty for intentional collapsing. Ashley Clark decision to go for the line was rewarded when top try scorer Jannie Bester went over untouched in the corner after sublime handling by James Allderman and Christo Terblanche put him into space. Daniel Clarke missed the difficult conversion but crucially the hosts lead by two against the wind.
Villager did have opportunities to score again in the half but lost lineouts, poor handling and the assistant referee adjudging Jannie Bester out before he passed to winger Blane Hansen kept the score line closer than it may have been. Although Brackenfell did have their own opportunities to score, the defence of the home team held firm on numerous occasions on their own five meter line ensuring they ended the half with a vital 5 – 3 lead.
One could be forgiven in believing Villager were on course for a runaway victory in the second half with the wind in their favour, forgetting of course that Brackenfell would have to believe the same and give up. They did not of course and played at a far higher intensity than they had in the first half while the expected Villager onslaught never materialised.
As a result of the home sides somewhat lethargic and erroneous display, Brackenfell reclaimed the lead midway through the third quarter after replacement flanker Andrew Wilkins conceded a penalty for a side entry at the breakdown. Rademeyer made no mistake converting right in front of the Villager posts edging the visitors ahead by one.
Even the yellow card Brackenfell conceded did not spur the Villager side into action as they were unable to score the deciding try time and again, although they can consider themselves unlucky not to have scored after replacement winger Donny Venter was adjudged out before offloading back inside to centre Brent Sanders. Only a timeously converted penalty by Daniel Clarke with five minutes to go prevented the Dirty whites from losing their first game of the year.
Head Coach Andrew Hughes was a relieved man afterwards. “Although the win was not a runaway victory the fact remains that we are still unbeaten and no matter what the critics may say of the performance Brackenfell were worthy opponents that could have won on the day had they kicked their goals.” He said. “This league is difficult and people must respect the fact that every side desperately want to beat us so to suggest the score line is not big enough is presumptuous and arrogant and that is not what we are about as a club.” He continued.
Captain Ashley Clarke believed the lack of intensity and finishing let the side down rather than the weather. “The weather was a factor for both teams so to suggest it had more of an effect on us is misguided.” He said. “The fact of the matter is that we did not play at the standard we know we are capable of while we did not capitalise on the scoring opportunities we created.”
In scenes remnant of the glorious amateur days both sides shared beers in the Villager change room after the game, a tradition that was sadly lost as teams became ever more competitive and lost sight of the real reasons why many play cub rugby in the first place. Clarke was exceptionally happy to see the tradition resume. “It was really special having the Brackenfell guys share a beer with us afterwards. Becoming friends off the field is what it is about.” He says. “However don’t think we won’t play hard during the game.” Clarke smiled.
Villager have the chance to make amends this Friday night when they take on Kraaifontein away. “Although Kraaifontein are second from the bottom on the log we have learnt our lesson long ago.” Hughes said. “There are no easy games in this league and if we are to achieve our promotional ambitions we will have to accept that as a club and continue to work hard and win however and whenever we can.”
Try: Jannie Bester (1)
Pen: Daniel Clarke (1)
1st XV vs Brackenfell RFC:
1. A. Cleophas 2. Z. Fredericks 3. R. Germishuys 4. K. Ngwanya 5. E. Ntaka 6. J. Bester 7. B. Blows 8. A. Clarke (cpt) 9. J. Sweetnam 10. D. Clark, 11. C. Terblanche 12. M. Rockhill 13. B. Sanders 14. B. Hansen 15. J. Allderman
16. S. Pitcher 17. T. Lee 18. R. Bezuidenhout 19. A. Wilkins 20. D. Anderson 21. S. Pattison 22. D. Venter