Kudos to Westville. In spite of failing to fire on all cylinders again for this their second match of the season, when push came to shove and the game was on the line, just like a week before, they came up with the BMT to close it out and record the win.
It was basically a like rewrite of the weekend before: Westville’s opponents pressing for a winning try, Westville producing focussed demon-like defence to get a turnover and then Westville going downtown to score a try of their own right before the final whistle. Needless to say the winning margin of 22-13 against Northwood wasn’t a fair reflection of how close the match really was.
For Northwood a review of the match tape will point out that it was their own errors while in possession rather than Westville’s attack which cost them this match. Once again it has to be mentioned that the Knights are an extremely young side this year and they also don’t yet have that winning culture belief system to fall back on when playing traditional rivals like Westville (and Kearsney a week before), who they are now clearly capable of beating.
It’s also worth noting that due to continuous rain in the days leading up to the match, the conditions underfoot on Bowden’s were playable but not ideal for attractive rugby. There were many basic handling errors. The match wasn’t a classic but it did turn out to be a passionate edge of the seat nail-biter for both sets of supporters.
Westville suffered a setback when a stomach bug ailment ruled out flyhalf Kyle Forsyth before kickoff. Their backline did not function smoothly the week before and that trend continuing may have been partly attributed to the late reshuffle which saw Stanley Giani shift from 9 to 10 and Kyle Naude slot in at 9. There’s a fair argument to suggest Giani’s performance was maybe too individualistic but at the same time there was method to well-weighted creative kicking touches he attempted to pull off and perhaps on a drier field and with a slightly more favourable bounces, he might have emerged as the hero of the day. The half had a huge hand in the opening try when he charged down his opposite number’s low trajectory kick near the halfway and managed to regather the rolling ball and outpace defenders to score a try that captain at centre Dylan Labuschagne converted.
The 7-0 lead established on 10 minutes was almost immediately cut down to 7-3 by Northwood scrumhalf Cameron Miller from a range of 40m plus. This would turn out to be the last successful kick of the entire match.
Westville driving mauls setup from lineouts proved a useful weapon and their young lock Okkie Barnard had a good match. After they trapped Northwood on the backfoot, causing the visitors to give away a few too many penalties, the decisions not to go for goal paid off when a strong formation after the lineout steered them rapidly towards the tryline where prop Dean Schrȁder grounded the ball for a 5-pointer, increasing his team’s lead to 12-3.
Northwood responded once again. A well worked try used the width of the pitch to their advantage. The action started with a scrum and far more urgency to get the ball to the left wing before bringing in back right via a couple recycled rucks. The vital moment was provided by flyhalf JP du Preez’s short pass timed well to for the runner from deep, fullback Ntokozo Makhaza, to achieve the linebreak and crash over. The score changed to 12-8.
Northwood’s kicking out of hand was generally poor. Not helping their cause was that both Westville wings were rock solid at fielding balls near the touchline before making efficient, accurate long passes inside to their fullback to mount counter-attacks. A sequence similar to this resulted in Westville’s third try shortly before half-time. Northwood were under massive pressure deep inside their own 22. They desperately needed to find the safety of touch so that they could regroup, but the weak box kick was collected by Ville right wing Grove Akker. He in turn set fullback “Habana” Mkhwanazi in motion on an angled run to the left. First a chip and then a fly-hack by the number-15, saw the ball shoot into the in-goal area on the far right where it hit a very wet patch and stopped dead in its tracks. Westville left wing Joshua Porter won the race to get there first and dived on the stationary ball. It definitely was not a day for the kickers as the conversion was missed.
The teams changed ends with Westville leading 17-8.
After the break the strict referee dished out the first of four yellow cards. Northwood lock Ciaran Bigwood was the recipient and deserved a mention for the way he put his body on the line in the first half and should have been missed by his team. However a man short, the Knights produced the try of the match. From a lineout well inside their own half Northwood spun the ball wide to their right. In a wide position no.8 Chulumanco Mfakadolo produced the game-breaking moment when he managed to manipulate the tackler, get on his outside shoulder and make a Sonny Bill one handed offload to wing Macmillian Mudara goal-side of the latter’s marker. Mudara raced up the touch line, drawing the last defender and feeding inside to support runner in the form of centre Nhlonipho Ndlela. Ndlela dotted down behind the posts. It was classy try. Somehow the conversion was missed so at 17-13 Northwood needed more than a penalty to take the lead.
The match then seemed to turn into one where the defending team capitalised on the attacking team’s mistakes and there were plenty of unforced errors giving rise to these opportunities. Westville had their moments. The most memorable was when the wicked bounce of the ball near the line denied centre Tristan de Koch. On the other side of the field, Northwood uncharacteristically couldn’t get their setpieces right when they were in favourable redzone attacking territory.
With time up and plenty of tired bodies out there, Northwood had to risk it but a poor decision to take on the defence when outnumbered had consequences. Their attempted threaded grubber past the wall was turned over. Westville hooker Asakhe Fakude then made a decisive carry and fellow frontrower Andrew Lotz rounded off with a try near the posts, which he failed to convert.
That was the final say in matters as Westville, who certainly have potential to play far better, won 22-13 to go two-and-oh for the season, while Northwood with the exact opposite record, will on Monday reflect on how close they actually came to getting the result they wanted.