Hilton beats Northwood 31-15 – 2019 match report

Nothing fancy just clinical! That’s most apt way to describe how visitors Hilton went about dismantling the Northwood defence on their way to a 31-15 win on the Reece-Edwards Field in Durban North.

Although the record will reflect another Hilton win against Northwood, looking back years from now, the score on paper probably won’t do justice to this Hilton 2019 1st XV’s achievement on the day. Before kickoff, there was no clear favourite, which gives better context to what a meaningful win it really was.

The match was not one to be remembered for dynamic backline play. There wasn’t even much by way of attempts to up the tempo to report on. That said the Hilton camp have every right to be extremely pleased by the variation their team produced that ultimately resulted in their backs crossing the white wash four times.

The Hilton backs might have had final say but huge credit must go to their forward pack. In fact both sets of forwards were value for money. The battle up front was a pulsating and bruising one, giving this match so much character. The opposing teams employed similar tactics revolving around their forwards flexing their muscle and working tirelessly to gain ascendency. The ball retention was good at times, meaning the defences on both teams had to dig deep to cope with the continuous physicality. In and around the rucks there was plenty of evidence to suggest that the big boys were committed and well-prepped for the challenge. By the end there was not much to separate the two packs in terms of performance.

The lack of backline urgency hurt Northwood most. They were unable to produce enough meaningful threats and even missed a couple of opportunities to take advantage of numerical mismatches. By contract Hilton looked like they had more options in their playbook and made their chances count for something.

Points summary:

5 07-00 Hilton wins a penalty and sets up a lineout deep in enemy territory. Patient, organised build-up play sees their forwards having a full-go at the Northwood D via a series of pick and drives. Finally the ball is presented to the backs. Inside centre Matt Booth collects one of those passes, which could quite easily have seen him wrapped up ball-and-all but he shows good co-ords and strength to break the line and scores under the posts. Flyhalf Ruan Wilmans adds two more.
12 07-03 Northwood were dealt a harsh blow during the week leading up to the match when their star flyhalf JP du Preez is ruled out with injury. The reshuffle sees dangerous underrated fullback Ntokozo Makhaza move to flyhalf. It’s a sensible rejig but it does leave the Knights underpowered out wide. It also reduces their goal-kicking confidence. Only after a third kickable penalty is awarded in the same part of the pitch in fairly quick succession, does Northwood finally decide to back Makhaza and he does not let them down from the kicking tee.
27 14-03 In a war of attrition, Hilton’s composure with ball in hand once again deserves applause. They eat away at the stubborn Northwood resistance, getting play into the redzone and the focus is rewarded when the referee calls back play for an offside penalty in front of the sticks. Outside centre Latica Nela catches everyone offguard by taking the responsibilty of a quick-tap after running to the right spot with ball-in-hand. He easily steps out of the way of a defender and scores from close range. Wilmans taps over the conversion.
32 21-03 A huge box kick isn’t held at the back by a Northwood player somewhere towards the middle of the ground. From the resulting scrum, Hilton go left and wide, where Nela (13) stabs through a perfectly weighted ball. His fullback Thabiso Dlamini wins the chase and has the gas to get to the line in spite of a good tackle made on him. Wilmans lands a potentially tricky kick with ease.
Halftime 21-03 Lots of praise for the way Hilton have turned possession into points. For Northwood, their backline attacks just seem to lack energy and they don’t seem to be switched on to where the best attacking spaces lie.
42 24-03 Another offside penalty gives Wilmans the chance to extend Hilton’s lead.
48 24-Oct A play that a ref might have called differently on another day, works out in Northwood’s favour. From very deep inside the 22, Hilton’s poorly executed left-footed clearance attempt is partly charged down. A Hilton player who was in front of the kicker, believing he has rights, plays the ball but is pinged. The stance and body language of Northwood’s Makhaza (10) leads everyone to believe he’s about to put the ball in the corner for a lineout. It’s a big surprise when he then swiftly turns, taps and sets off towards the tryline, evading the tacklers with ease and dotting down for a 5-pointer, which he goals.
55 31-Oct Arguably the try of the match simply because it’s a bit of old school rugby at it’s best. It’s humble start is a Northwood lineout gone wrong. After the scrum, Hilton employ a series of carries, showing that mature patience through the phases once again. They then recycle and go left using classic ball through the hands to exploit the overlap. The best pass is the last one made by the standout and ever-present no.8 Mark Armstrong, who’s soft hands, man-on layoff sets left wing Josh Cox on his way. The wing still has a ton of work to do in a narrow space down the left. His effort is first class and he gets in, in spite of all the attention. Wilmans clearly has his kicking boots on and slots his attempt.
61 31-15 Northwood are playing with more urgency to try get something out of the match. They chip over the top but towards the back it’s Hilton who recover and are well set to counter-attack via a good pass out to the left. It’s looking productive at first, before a wildish one-handed misdirected sling offload bounces behind the support players. Northwood right wing Sali Mlenzama reacts fasted to claim the ball. He definitely does not have things his own way but his contribution turns out to be perfect as he advances up the right touch before making a special offload to the inside to flank Siyamukela Ndlovu who carries it over the line.
Fulltime 31-15 Based on Northwood’s form this season and their homeground advantage, this amounts to very good win for the Midlands’ private.

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