It is becoming a norm for the Stott Field to produce spellbinding contests between the hosts Kearsney and Hilton. In 2017 Kearsney scraped home in a close match they probably should have lost and in 2018 Hilton held on to win one that Kearsney appeared to be more dominant in. So the 14-all draw this time around in a well-attended, absorbing match is totally in line with the character of what is a fierce tight battle between two KZN privates.
Kearsney’s under-17 outside centre Connor de Bruyn had a big influence on proceedings. The converted loose-forward showed remarkable strength on his feet and accounted for a high percentage of Hilton’s first time missed tackle count. De Bruyn still has a lot of work to do on his lateral vision in this position but as a ruthless very direct strike-runner, he won just about every collision he was involved in and gained many metres for his team, even though he was never quite able to shake off the attentions of an alert and efficient second line of defence. By the 15th minute Kearsney was 6-0 to the good via the boot of scrumhalf Jordan Bamber. In the lead-up to both penalties, de Bruyn had stamped his authority on the midfield.
On the other end Hilton had their chances close to the line but poor decisions and static backline play ended in turnovers rather than points. Their tactical kicking game particularly the cross-kicks also failed to produce the desired attacking outcomes.
In fact attacking rugby intellect in the redzone was absent from both teams for most of this match, resulting in it pretty much being an area of the field owned by the respective defences. That said Hilton’s opening try seemed to have a hint of smart thinking behind it. Moments earlier the human bulldozer, Hilton’s tighthead Chris d’Oliviera, had caused Kearsney’s slightly-built flyhalf considerable shoulder pain due to a gutsy effort made to stop the big unit. Before the injury halt to play, Hilton had advanced into the Kearsney 22 and won a kickable penalty with the possibility to go for the corner as a viable alternative. Instead they opted for a scrum. Hilton no.8 and captain Mark Armstrong, who produced the kind of form that’s expected to see him feature as a strong Craven Week contender later on in the season, then made a clean, quick break off the back on the solid setpiece. He got into top gear relatively quickly and targeted the vulnerable 10-channel. Using his low centre of gravity he burst through two would-be tackles and scored by the uprights to help earn his team maximum points, after his flyhalf Ruan Wilmans tapped over the easy conversion to put Hilton 7-6 ahead after 22-minutes. This is how the score remained until halftime.
Kearsney created a number of chances to regain the lead during the first part of this second half. Just like in the first half, a very promising try-scoring move was halted after the referee adjudged it to be crossing/obstruction. Both One-Stripe wings Derick Marshall and Luke Dudley were then denied tries in either corner by a combination of gritty defence and the touchline. A few unforced errors on attack also prevented the Maroons’ score from increasing until the 50th minute when Kearsney eventually broke through and scored in an unexpected manner. With Hilton’s defence seemingly up to every challenge presented to it, it was left to a quick tap penalty take a few metres from the try-line and one pass towards the right touchline where impressive no.8 Mass Fierro punched though the wall of Hilton defenders with surprising ease and scored a 5-pointer to make it 11-7 in Kearsney’s favour.
That lead was a short-lived one. Hilton’s reply got off to an unconventional start when prop Leftheri Zigiriadis, the front man in a set-move pod charge, suddenly lost control of the ball well before the contact point. The ball went to ground backwards and caused a bit of a scramble before Hilton recovered it. Now in broken play, Hilton had to abort their structured approached and they came up with an effective more natural ball-skilled 1-2 move between eventual try-scorer Wilmans and lock Murray Schnell, to open up the disorganised defence. Wilmans added two more with the boot for Hilton go 14-11 up in the 54th minute.
A few minutes later Hilton won a series of penalties, one inside the Kearsney 22, which in hindsight they should probably have tried to kick at goal instead of choosing to scrum again. The Midlands team’s decision did not pan out as Kearsney managed to regain possession in open play still well inside their half of the field. Aided by yet another big play from centre de Bruyn, the ground gained and an infringement committed by the visitors was turned into three points from the kicking tee by halfback Bamber, who’d also contributed some useful kicks from the base throughout the match.
With the scores now level at 14-14 and just a few minutes left, the next kickoff saw recipients Kearsney knocked on. Hilton used the scrum deep inside opposition territory to initiate a stable platform from which Wilmans lined up a decent drop goal attempt that had the accuracy but just-just not the legs to win it for Hilton.
Unlike the last four or so seasons, there won’t be a return match (re-match) this year, meaning the 14-all draw will stand as the only result between the two privates in 2019.
In closing, good schoolboy rugby is about having heart and often extends to putting the body on the line for the honour of wearing the jersey. During the home team’s offensive patch earlier in the second half, flyhalf Matthew Hind, who’s shoulder had been worked over in a few tackles, came up with a couple of deft touches using hands and foot to help pin Hilton back. Hilton right wing Tanaka Matsa was another courageous soldier. He never stood down from the task of marking his big, powerful opponent Marshall who must have had a 30kg weight advantage in that match-up. Both sets of forwards worked extremely hard in this bruising affair without getting the mentions their efforts so richly deserved.
|1||Connor Griffiths||1||Leftheri Zigiriadis|
|2||Reid Stuart||2||Brendan Beukes|
|3||Oliver Carmody||3||Christopher D’Oliveira|
|4||Max Immelman||4||Murray Schnell|
|5||Dean Burrell||5||Luke Van Ryswyk|
|6||Aaron Smith||6||James Harvey|
|7||Aidan Forte||7||Thomas Hamlin|
|8||Massimo Fierro||8||Mark Armstrong|
|9||Jordan Bamber||9||Mike Teichmann|
|10||Matthew Hind||10||Ruan Wilmans|
|11||Derick Marshall||11||Joshua Cox|
|12||Luke Wilson||12||Charles Vickers|
|13||Connor De Bruyn||13||Latica Nela|
|14||Luke Dudley||14||Tanaka Matsa|
|15||Cameron Ferguson||15||Thabiso Dlamini|