It’s a cliché but this really was an advert for schoolboy rugby. It involved non-stop action between two evenly matched teams who pitted different strengths and weaknesses against each other. A draw would have been a fair reflection of the closeness of the game. Towards the end with the digital scoreboard showing 26-20 in favour of the home team Westville, it was Michaelhouse pressing in the redzone for quite some time in search of a winning score. However Westville absorbed that pressure and went on to score their fifth try at death, to secure a 31-20 victory. The result could well have gone either way, so it’s fair to say that Westville made better use of point scoring opportunities than Michaelhouse did.
Westville got onto the scoreboard early on. An offensive carried out at speed sucked in and disorganised the Michaelhouse defence. A feature of Westville’s play is that even when they have tight-forwards in the line, the ball seems to effortlessly find its way to a player in space. On this occasion with an overlap to be exploited, that key player with clear air in front of him turned to be dangerous attacking fullback Nqubeko “Habana” Mkhwanazi who had enough gas to beat the cover and score an unconverted try.
Westville almost doubled their 5-0 lead a few minutes later when a superb skip pass to the left landed in Mkhwanazi’s breadbasket allowing him to use his speed and a kick ahead to into the in-goal area where he came close to finishing.
Usually when a player is promoted from the second team, one does not expect him to be that prominent but in this game Michaelhouse loosehead prop Brandon Jewell really went all out from start to finish and his energetic contributions as a ball-carrier would have made him a worthy candidate for player of the match. Westville’s backline organisation and handling let them down at times and when they tried to run a ball out of their own 22 about 12min into the match, they turned over ball to House in the form of a scrum. From this setpiece base, power carries by Christian Opperman (8), James Moodie (7) and Jewell did significant damage before the recycled ball went through the hands and wide left where wing Michael Gomes scored the equaliser.
It wasn’t long before Michaelhouse hit the lead for the first and last time in the match. They took control of a situation near the halfway line on their right-hand side of the field. Prop Liam Friend who also cropped up from time to time as a willing ball-carrier did some sterling work to help generate the go-forward which aided by several teammates eventually saw lock Luke Taylor getting over. Flyhalf Luc Pousson added two more points with the boot to give MHS a 12-5 lead.
Westville hooker Teague Loelly had a few memorable involvements in play. The holding penalty he won on around the 25th minute allowed his team to set up an attacking lineout in the Michaelhouse 22. The big hooker then found his target Josh Forsyth (8) at the back with a pinpoint accurate throw. The high quality play continued as Westville got into a good formation and drove towards the tryline, where the referee judged that Michaelhouse had collapsed the maul and duly awarded a penalty try after playing an advantage which almost saw centre Tristan de Koch scoring under the upright. With a penalty try being worth 7-points nowadays, it levelled matters at 12-all.
The next Westville try had a touch of class about it. No.8 Josh Forsyth found himself on the outside and used the room to make ground alongside the left touchline towards the 22. As defenders closed in on him, he had the presence of mind to look for support and spotted his brother Kyle (10) on an unguarded line on the inside but quite a distance away. The loose-forward floated a beautiful spinning pass over the top that the flyhalf did not have to break stride to catch. This was crucial as there was still work to be done to get to the tryline. Centre Jaco Labuschagne who had a relatively quiet day in open play tapped over the kick as Westville went 19-12 up.
In the lead up to halftime and with Westville having a man in the bin, Michaelhouse blew a few chances to get points. First they missed a 40m kick at goal. Thereafter a couple of assaults in the redzone went abegging.
Michaelhouse captain Christian Opperman played a role in the build-up and finish of his team’s third try just a few minutes into the second half. The field position stemmed from a huge punt exit by fullback Michael Brownlee which had the Westville sweeper conceding a penalty after being caught in possession with no support. There was innovation at the ensuing lineout and a few plays with Opperman and Moodie taking turns to punch holes before Opperman received the ball on the right blindside as part of an overlap and ran hard into a gap and dived over in the corner. This reduced the deficit to 19-17.
The next two highlights both belonged to Westville. Flank Philani Luthuli came close to scoring after an attacking lineout and an outstanding box kick by scrummy Stanley Giani just-just saw the touchline coming to House’s rescue as wing Josh Porter was bearing down on the ball.
After the lineout, untidy backline play by Westville had to be consolidated but once they re-established control of the situation they managed to get the ball moving to the left where skilled passers in tight-forwards Dean Schrader (3), Okkie Barnard (5) and Dean Slabbert (4) combined well to see the latter cross for another Labuschagne converted try, putting the hosts into a 26-17 lead about 12min into the half.
A few minutes later Michaelhouse stuck back as Pousson landed the only penalty of the game to again put the red hooped jerseys within a score of the lead at 26-20 down.
For the next 15 or so minutes Michaelhouse camped in and around the Westville 22m line. The visitor won a series of penalties and tried their level best to bash their way past determined Westville defenders. Michaelhouse just could not get suitable formations into place away from the breakdowns but were also reluctant to spin the ball wide. The closest they came to a try was a held-up over the line call. The extended period of attack eventually ended when “Habana” won a holding penalty for Westville and then chose a quick-tap, run and grubber solution to relieve the danger zone threat that Ville had been under for so long.
Late on in the match, House couldn’t hold onto an overthrown lineout ball which ended up going to one of their players standing unmarked at the back. Westville recovered the ball and good work by flank Josh Aigner gave him an assist to his credit as hooker Loelly was put into an opening. He changed direction and cruised past the scattered defence far too easily for a relatively soft try, which was not converted.
A terrific entertaining match concluded with Westville claimed their first scalp of the season 31-20 against an improved Michaelhouse team.
|1||Andrew Lotz||u18||1||Brandon Jewell||u17|
|2||Teague Loelly||u17||2||Mpho Mtwethwa||u18|
|3||Dean Schrȁder||u18||3||Liam Friend||u18|
|4||Ockie Barnard||u17||4||Murray Finlay||u18|
|5||Deon Slabbert||u18||5||Luke Taylor||u18|
|6||Philani Luthuli||u18||6||Torin Mecklenbourg||u18|
|7||Josh Aigner||u17||7||James Moodie||u17|
|8||Josh Forsyth||u18||8||Christian Opperman||u18|
|9||Stanley Giani||u18||9||Lance Reynolds||u18|
|10||Kyle Forsyth||u18||10||Luc Pousson||u17|
|11||Joshua Porter||u18||11||Michael Gomes||u18|
|12||Tristan De Kock||u18||12||Thami Zakwe||u17|
|13||Dylan Labuschagne||u18||13||Declan Newton||u18|
|14||Grove Akker||u17||14||Phil Thomas||u18|
|15||Nqubeko Makwanazi||u18||15||Michael Brownlee||u18|