UCT 10:16 Maties
The first ever FNB Varsity Cup final, a "home" game for the Ikey Tigers, yet played at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch was a tight and tense affair, in line with the pedigree of all the crunch matches in this great new competition. The stadium was packed to the rim with 18 000 spectators and the sponsors pulled out all the stops to make it a true rugby spectacle. UCT outscored their rivals by two tries to one, but like in so many finals, kicks and even a dropgoal would prove to tip the scale.
UCT did a lot of the playing in the opening minutes, but
five handling errors in as many minutes prevented them from finding
their rhythm and played into the Maties hands. In the 8th minute Thembelani Mayosi got yellow carded,
the Ikey’s defense however held firm and Maties weren’t able to
capitalise from their extra man, other than with a penalty by Henoe
Stofberg, who opened the scoreline.
Back to full numbers, UCT grew more confident and looked dangerous every time they sent it wide, and after a well placed and gathered chip kick by UCT no15 Rob Hopwood, it was speedster Marcelo Sampson who finished off a great move with a 30metre sprint to beat the cover defense and score in the corner.
Matt Rosslee’s conversion was just off target, with the added pressure of the strong maroon crowd whistling. One has to question the respect for the game of the stadium MC and music crew, who thought it was a good idea to play a Matie student song, while the UCT flyhalf was taking his run up.
Ikeys played better now looking dangerous with the ball in hand and turning their opposition with clever kicks playing in Matie territory and snuffing out the maroon counter attacks. Maties never made it into the Ikey’s 22, but took a 6:5 lead into halftime after another penalty.
UCT started the second half taking more and maybe too many risks and trying to play in their own half too much and soon found themselves pushed back into their own danger zone. But fresh legs again made a difference for the Tigers, when replacement flank Kyle Brown broke at tackle in midfield, with the swarming support only being stopped 10 meters out. Ikey’s sent it wide quickly to have their other flyer Matt Turner score in the corner. This send the blue and white crowd off their feet and the IIIKEEEEYYS chorus echoed from the Stellenbosch mountains! The conversion was wide again, so the score stayed just too close for comfort at 10:6.
Now Ikeys seemed to take the foot off the pedal for just a minute and a mistake gave Maties possesion just after the kick off, where seconds later a moment of controversy ensued when Maties scored a try chasing down the blind side. This was challenged by JJ Gagiano’s team using their "Captain’s Call", which allows each team one challenge of the referee’s decision. The TMO decision could not be followed by the restless crowd in the stadium as there were no screens, but the challenge was legitimate, the try scorer had been offside, so the try was disallowed and Ikeys were still in the lead.
Now Maties got their tails up and attacked relentlessly. Matie fullback Joe Pietersen – one of the Western Province stars who turned out for their first match in the Varsity Cup – looked dangerous from the back and broke the first defense line on numerous occasions. One of those attacks saw Ikeys just spoil a two man Maties overlap with a knock on forced by their determined defense, and seconds later, a similar situation on the other touchline could again be stopped by a try saving tackle – again confirmed by the TMO – who ruled the Matie player had been forced into touch. The Maties pressure was eventually converted into points as WP flyhalf Ricardo Croy kicked a dropgoal, to make it 9:10.
The Ikeys got another chance to pull away, after fighting their way back into the Stellenbosch half, where they camped for the majority of the last 10 minutes of the match. A penalty was awarded, but it ended up being just out of Matt Rosslee’s reach, so things stayed tense, with Maties still in the running to clinch it with a penalty or another drop goal.
The last two minutes could not have been more dramatic, with the Tigers taking play deep into the Matie dangerzone and a clever chip-kick by replacement fullback Pete Haw, unleashed the speedy UCT backline’s pressure onto his opposite number who was forced over his own tryline. Ikeys were rewarded with a 5m scrum and a perfect opportunity to score and seal their win.
But they were penalised in the scrum which allowed Maties to claw their way back up the field, where they won a lineout and continued attacking until they were within close range of the Ikey tryline, where the UCT forwards defended wave after wave of pick and go’s until they forced a knock-on and had a scrum 5 meters out.
Surely this was the last play of the game? UCT won their scrum and Gagiano picked up at the base to set up a platform for the final kick into touch, but the ball was turned over by Maties, who immediatley played the freekick and sent the ball out to the far touch line, where the Ikey’s desperate cover defense cought the winger half a metre too late. Try, game over. The conversion was only window dressing, Maties had done it, snatched the win and the trophy in the very last second. What a heartbreaker for the boys in blue and white and their noisy faithful!
Whilst Maties now enjoy the bragging rights in the Western Cape, UCT
can hold their heads high after having been seeded seventh in the
tournament and setting the competition on fire, beating every team,
scoring the most tries, having the joint top try scorers and ending top of the log.
Maties pocketed R250, 000 with their trophy, whilst Ikeys won R150, 000 as runners-up and an extra R100,000 from FNB for topping the log – or being the team that "most rocked".
Well done to the young Ikeys and their management and coaching staff – it has been a great ride! And last but not least thanks to all the fans in Blue and White – the support has been amazing and there is nothing like seeing real Tigers on the sidelines.
*The Ikey Colts beat Steinhoff Dagbreek Koshuis 17-15 in the curtain-raiser.
UCT: Tries: Marcello Sampson, Matthew Turner.
Try: Morne Jooste
Conversion: Ricardo Croy. Penalty: Henoe Stoffberg. Dropgoal: Croy.
1. Herbert Mayosi, 2. JP Koster, 3 Dylan Rodgers, 4. Mike Ledwidge, 5
Martin Muller, 6 Enoch Panya, 7.Mzoi Simani, 8 JJ Gagiano (c), 9 Danie
van der Merwe, 10 Matthew Rosslee, 11 Matthew Turner, 12 Pieter
Engelbrecht (vc), 13 James Martin, 14 Marcello Sampson, 15 Robert
16 Mark Goosen, 17 Wesley Chetty, 18 Dane Galley, 19 Kyle Brown, 20 Kyle Wickens, 21 Tim Whitehead, 22 Peter Haw
Therlow Pietersen, Heno Stoffberg, Jean
Stemmet, Sarel Potgieter, Lewellyn Winckler, Richardo Croy, Wilhelm
Koch, Bennie Booysen, Zandre Jordaan, Wesley Wilkens, Jaco Nepgen,
Erich Laubscher, Jacobi Adriaanse, Matthew Dobson, Johan Roets, Lisle
Clark, Andrew Crausaz, JC Kritzinger, Albert Fullard, De Kock
Steenkamp, Lucian Cloete, Morné Jooste, Joe Pietersen.