BISHOPS PULL OFF A HOUDINI CLASSIC
There Hugo, then ! Rondebosch flyhalf Hugo Minnaar dives over for one of his side’s five tries in
their 34-13 win over Wynberg at Hawthornden on Saturday 22 April 2017. (photo: Robert Gad)
In one of the most extraordinary matches seen for many a year on their Piley Rees field, Bishops stunned the crowd by turning over a 3-28 half-time deficit to beat visitors Stellenberg 29-28 on Saturday 22 April 2017.
This was a seventy-minute spectacle that added a whole new lease on life to the cliché “a game of two halves” as the home team showed remarkable application and fighting spirit after the break to stop what had seemed to be a relentless march to victory by their thoroughly workmanlike opponents.
What made the outcome even more surreal was that the Jade Brigade, methodical to a fault in subduing the Platinum Blues and effectively forcing them into a litany of basic errors in the opening period, didn’t really do anything wrong after the break.
Nor did Bishops suddenly spark into life and produce dazzling rugby. Yes, their four tries all came from the outside backs, but they were more the result of just doing things properly than capitalizing on their opponents’ errors.
The visitors knocked on from the kick-off, an advantage the home backs promptly declined by responding in kind. From the scrum Bishops inside centre George Spencer looked sharp, but a stab through ran harmlessly into touch.
The Stellenberg defence was unyielding and young flyhalf Nivan Petersen relieved the pressure when the hosts were blown up for entering a ruck from the side. Flank AJ Rossouw ensured clean possession from the line-out, but Bishops picked up the loose ball, only to send the clearance straight into the arms of grateful full-back Ryan Brown.
Good work in the loose by Stellies tighthead Nicko Laubscher maintained the pressure, forcing the hosts to clear directly into touch and obstruction by Bishops at the line-out enabled Petersen to set up another attacking line-out. Although committed defence ensured a turn-over, the hosts were penalized at a ruck, leaving Petersen with the simple task of slotting the kick from in front of the posts. (Bishops 0 Stellenberg 3 – 10 minutes)
Stellies right wing Angelo Davids fielded the restart, allowing scrumhalf Ryno Marais the chance to clear. The no.9 was prominent again, taking play well into the hosts’ 22 metre area, at which juncture Bishops were penalized for holding on in a ruck. Petersen converted from a similar position to his first effort. (Bishops 0 Stellenberg 6 – 13 minutes)
The flyhalf dealt well with the kick-off, although the Platinum Blues no. 8 Felix Burt put in a fine half-break. Unfortunately, the front foot advantage he derived was short-lived as Marais took play back to twelve metres from the Bishops line with a sublime box-kick. His forwards carried on the good work, driving the home team off the ball and forcing a penalty, affording Petersen his third successful shot at goal. (Bishops 0 Stellenberg 9 – 17 minutes)
Home no. 9 William Rose finally gave the home supporters something to cheer about with a penetrative snipe, after which his opponents were penalized for side entry at a ruck. Accepting the opportunity, the scrumhalf put his side on the scoreboard. (Bishops 3 Stellenberg 3 – 19 minutes)
Sloppy Bishops play characterized the next few minutes and Brown was given the room to run out of defence, a threat which ended when Davids was tackled. Undeterred, the Jades turned possession over, flank Johann van der Merwe initiating a move which saw Davids given a clear run-in on the right. Petersen added the extras. (Bishops 3 Stellenberg 16 – 23 minutes)
Brown was becoming increasingly involved, his long strides causing problems in the home defence, but it was the hosts who threatened next, only an interception and resolute defence by the northern suburbs side seeing their efforts peter out.
Another basic Bishops error – a knock-on in midfield – handed the initiative back to their visitors, inside centre Steph Marais’s break wide on the left ending with him being tackled into touch on the corner flag. Panicky exit play allowed Davids run the ball back into the hosts’ red zone, after which nippy stepping by Petersen enabled Stellies no.8 André Hanekom to dot down. (Bishops 3 Stellenberg 21 – 29 minutes)
The aimless kick-off, which bounced harmlessly into touch in goal, seemed to epitomize the disjointedness of the home team. With the opposition at sixes and sevens, Stellenberg flank AJ Rossouw stormed over the tryline to increase their misery. Petersen stretched the lead to 25 points. (Bishops 3 Stellenberg 28 – 33 minutes)
The half ended with Petersen finding touch after Bishops had been penalized for going over the ball in an attacking ruck. Half-time : Bishops 3 Stellenberg 28.
The signs were slightly more positive at the restart, the hosts making good ground despite knocking on the kick-off. Two penalties in quick succession saw the ball carried up to within striking distance of the Stellenberg line. Sadly, when another penalty came their way, all the locals could do was turn over possession.
Petersen masterminded a fine counterattack to lift the pressure, but this proved temporary as the Platinum Blues used some determined driving, followed by a penalty to set up a line-out fifteen metres from the Stellies try-line. However, the tap down was stolen by the visitors, enabling Davids to put in a fine run.
Inexplicable mishandling and a ruck transgression allowed Stellenberg to establish a line-out twenty metres short of the hosts’ goal-line. At this point a shift in fortunes suddenly became apparent as the Bishops pack drove their hitherto largely unchallenged opponents back several metres, the subsequent clearance taking play back to the half-way line.
All was not yet well with the hosts and a wild pass in a promising position drifted harmlessly into touch. Nevertheless, strong running by right wing Murray Bruce repaired the damage, even though, when a knock-on saw possession turned over, Davids threatened again until a penalty gave the home crowd a chance to breathe.
Then came the moment the Piley Rees faithful had been longing for.
Man of the Match hooker Ghaalib Kenny made several yards before passing to Spencer, who ran a beautiful diagonal to the right. The ball was then quickly shuttled out to the left where wing Ross Goodwin touched down in the corner. It might only have been five points, but the self-belief it gave the southern suburbs lads was palpable. (Bishops 8 Stellenberg 28 – 51 minutes)
All of a sudden, the hosts exuded self-belief and only a lack of support halted another attack. However, some delightful interpassing, followed by the trademark lightning-fast switch from side to side saw right wing Murray Bruce over with room to dot down under the crossbar. Rose converted. (Bishops 15 Stellenberg 28 – 56 minutes)
A loose ball fell nicely for Bishops to kick through and they were promptly awarded a penalty for Stellenberg going off their feet at a ruck, which allowed Rose to set up an attacking line-out nine metres from the Stellies’ goal-line. Concerted driving and a quick release sent full-back James Ipser over near the uprights, which suited the no.9 just fine. (Bishops 22 Stellenberg 28 –61 minutes)
An unsuccessful penalty attempt by Petersen was indicative of the extent to which fortunes had shifted. Although the visitors pack managed to regain its collective strength, a penalty for holding on on the ground was exacerbated by an additional ten metres for backchat, the net gain for the home team being a line-out just inside the visitors’ 22 metre area.
From the line-out Spencer surged over the tryline under the crossbar, despite having two defenders on his back. Rose’s conversion put his team ahead for the first time in the match. (Bishops 29 Stellenberg 28 – 66 minutes)
Davids continued his impressive outing with another jinking run, but was tackled some 25 metres out. Despite the ball finding its way to the tricky wing yet again after a skew line-out put-in, he was quickly closed down, a Stellenberg knock-on at the ensuing ruck resulting in the final whistle. Final score : Bishops 29 Stellenberg 28.
Stellenberg played to their pattern and did it with calm efficiency. Theirs is not a side that boasts individual stars, although right wing Angelo Davids is rather special. Grade 10 flyhalf Nivan Petersen has come a long way in a month and Ryno Marais, deputizing for the injured Jaco van Biljon, did an excellent job behind the pack.
The forwards were just as uncompromising and dominated exchanges for the first fifty minutes. Perhaps the side as a whole may need to look at their discipline as they fell foul of referee Jacques Pienaar, who had an exemplary outing.
Bishops will have to work out why they took 60% of the game to fire smoothly. The backs looked very shaky during that period, while the forwards struggled to tame their opponents. On Saturday they face a rampant KES side at the Wynberg Festival. It is doubtful whether the Gauteng team will be anything like as generous.
It took the crowd, apart from the local learners, a few seconds for the result to sink in. Bearing in mind how they had played for the greater part of the match, one cannot but feel that Bishops were extremely fortunate.
It was just the kind of game that adds an extra dash of spice to schoolboy rugby.