Stage 2 – Round 3: And the second half is underway…


Group A coughed up two close encounters as has been the feature of this pool over the past few weeks. Ubumbo took to the field with a swagger in their step after their last victory over the Cobras, whilst their opposition were in a frenzied state to climb the ladder after two promising performances that did not ultimately deliver.

Group A

GROUP A

P

W

D

L

F

A

P/D (+-)

BP

P

Nadoes

3

2

0

1

37

10

27

2

10

Cobras

3

2

0

1

41

38

3

1

9

Ubumbo

3

2

0

1

26

25

1

0

8

Spanners

3

0

0

3

23

48

-25

1

1

Ubumbo as usual showed their flair for overhead passes and linking play that makes them the most exciting and frustrating team to watch as one of their supporters. Electrifying pace and astonishing offloads are mixed in there with indifferent handling and ambiguous rucking. Although their backline looked like finding its form of previous generations, it was a member of the old guard and player of sheer class, Khanya Mdaka, that cut swathes through the Spanners’ defense and put Ubumbo into a 12-0 lead at the break. The second half saw a game swing in favour of the engineers, as they dominated the tight exchanges and starved the Ubumban half backs of quality ball. A 0-0 scoreline in the second half meant that honours went to Ubumbo, but the Spanners were by no means in this pool by accident. Their next encounter in the quarter finals could cough up an upset if they stick to their guns and use their brutish pack to good effect.

What many billed the clash of the evening came in the form of two sides entering a game on completely different levels. The Cobras have seemingly struggled to find their cruising gear and have been a few notches off the pace of their previous games. A loss to Ubumbo turned on a few warning sirens and one could sense the urgency in their camp as they arrived on the mile. Nadoes have been quite a different story altogether, showcasing their talents on the field to maximum effect throughout the season. Every game has seen a hungry side turn up on the mile without a shred of complacency, eager to keep the trophy nestled in the Nadoes board room for another consecutive year.

Tension was high right from the kickoff, and the early exchanges were punctuated by nervous handling and infringements. It took fifteen minutes of scrappy rugby for the game to start flowing, and by that stage the Cobras had given all they had on defense as the Nadoes started finding their devastating rhythm. Some straight running and a slipped tackle saw the inevitable happen, and the Nadoes opened the scoring through fullback Marc Mitchell who seemed to be enjoying the space allowed to him from the Cobras outside backs. But before the ref could call the half a half, Cobras had stolen possession deep in Nadoes territory. A concentration lapse around the fringe ala Kevin Mealamu allowed nuggety scrumhalf Graeme Steen to swallow dive over the ruck and come within range of the Nadoes. The kick was good and for the first time, Cobras looked on par with their rivals, setting up the game for a thrilling finish. As much as I would like to say how riveting the game turned out to be, it was too close to become a spectacle and both sides resorted to attrition to gain the upper hand. Cobras were awarded a penalty outside the 22, and with a dominant lineout, seriously contemplated the corner kick option. However the victory was within grasp and at that stage there was too much at stake to throw away available points. The kick was true, and it was then the Nadoes who began to ask questions of the tired Cobras defenders. Nadoes probed out wide and tried the direct route, to little avail. They struggled to get the momentum going and every time things looked promising, a rushed pass or an infringement would slow down their pace of the game. In the end, it took a game-saving tackle on Mitchell from his opposite number, Oupa Kelly, to shut out the game for the Cobras. It was a gutsy performance from the Cobras who will take a lot out of their first victory over the reigning Champions. The Nadoes still go into the quarters on top of the log, but will know that they had a lot more to offer on the night.

Group C

GROUP C

P

W

D

L

F

A

P/D (+-)

BP

P

Clarendon

2

2

0

0

57

34

23

2

10

College

2

1

0

1

13

19

-6

0

4

Kopano

2

1

0

1

29

36

-17

0

4

Shebeen

2

0

0

2

24

34

-10

1

2

In group C action, Kopano notched their first win of the season against a slightly out of tune College side by a 12-3 scoreline. The victory was ground out well by the Belsen Boys who have shaken their underdog tag in this group and will be keen to notch a win this week against Shebeen Boys to sneak a top two finish in the group. Meanwhile, Clarendon Knights closed out a tight fixture against Shebeen Boys 24-17, earning them the bonus point and group topping status regardless of their outcome against College this coming week. It is good to see the res sides putting together a string of performances after a mediocre start to the season, but Shebeen will be looking to bounce off the bottom of the group in their next fixture. Group C is not over yet and should yield some tense encounters come Wednesday night.

Group D

GROUP D

P

W

D

L

F

A

P/D (+-)

BP

P

Smuts

2

1

1

0

24

10

14

1

7

Marquard

2

1

1

0

5

3

2

0

6

Turtles

2

1

0

1

10

12

-2

1

5

Ikhaya

2

0

0

2

22

31

-9

2

2

Group D played the late games this week and despite having to wait around for their turn on the pitch, provided the handful of Butlers-eating crowd with plenty to shout about. Smuts absorbed boundless pressure from their upper campus rivals Ikhaya, and then struck when it mattered most. Their defensive woes have been remedied through a possible browsing of the Eddie Jones playbook that was seen floating around the Fuller dining hall last week, but needless to say they practiced what was preached and came away worthy victors, 24-10. In the other game, Turtles showed Marquard that in order to score tries, you need to beat the first, second, third and fourth line of defense. They took to the break 3-0 up and they were albeit the less exciting, but more disciplined side at half time. Again, Marquard were made to defend until Splinter came home, but did so valiantly. After territory and possession stats reading like a deans list student compared to a jammie trawler in favour of the Turtles, one would’ve thought that they had the game all but sealed. However the thin lead they were holding onto was not enough to discourage a final surge from the Marquard side who slipped over for a last-minute game-winning try. Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat, to use the age-old cliché, but this truly was such a circumstance in which one’s heart had to go out to the Turtles side that deserved the four points but only ended up with the consolatory one. 5-3 to Marquard and they now head to their next fixture against Ikhaya with a confidence booster that could see them elapse Smuts for top of the group. Also, Turtles could sneak a top spot if they play their cards wisely against Smuts in their final group stage fixture. Group D is far from cemented and next week is all to play for as the curtain comes down on the group stage of the 2008 season.

Games to look out for next week:
Bye group B has two crunch games in a Panthers – Wildboys showdown and Easterns take on the Barbarians in what also should be a cracker. College v Clarendon should spark some res rivalry gees but in general all the games will be deciders and therefore big encounters.

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