EXPERIMENTAL BISHOPS TEAM EDGES HOME AGAINST WYNBERG
“All for one and one for all !” The Bishops pack pours into a ruck during their 18-14
home victory over Wynberg on Friday 9 August 2019. (photo: Madison Beley)
Bishops overcame a variety of obstacles - several of which were of their own making and all of which will be expanded upon towards the end of this report - to beat a very fired-up Wynberg team 18-14 in a tense, dramatic game on the Piley Rees on Friday 9 August 2019.
The result ensures that the Platinum Blues will be this year’s top dogs in the southern suburbs and effectively renders next week’s Rondebosch vs Bishops season finale a dead rubber.
The visitors lit up a very gloomy, overcast and chilly morning with some enterprising play right from the start, giant Wynberg left wing Ebenezer Tshimanga collecting the kick-off before offloading to loosehead Tim Hoenson who drove several metres upfield.
The ball was then quickly recycled to outside centre Rethabile Louw by way of a deft skip pass, the speedster making good ground before passing to Hoenson, who put in a storming thirty metre run down the centre of the field.
Fortunately, Bishops managed to steal the ball in the resultant ruck, allowing flyhalf Sacha Mngomezulu to find a safe touch, as he was called upon to do frequently during the match, twenty metres inside the hosts’ half.
The bated breath and crossed fingers that greeted a Bishops scrum put-in proved unnecessary as the Platinum Blues scrum managed to retain the ball before giving Mngomezulu the chance to take play ten metres inside the Wynberg half with a huge clearance.
The pivot had to defuse another Wynberg surge, but a knock-on broke the hosts’ rhythm, with Tshimanga threatening down the left, only to be brought down by a fine tackle by his opposite number, Adam Suliaman.
Wynberg moved the ball to the right before a wayward pass handed the initiative back to the home team, full-back Sam Marthinussen haring down the left touchline before releasing inside centre Mikey Ford on his inside for the first try of the game, converted by Mngomezulu. (Bishops 7 Wynberg 0 - 10 minutes)
The Bishops pivot kept Wynberg at bay from the restart, but Berg flyhalf Devon Pretorius ran it back at the hosts. Bishops managed to slow the ball down, but only gained some respite when they were awarded a penalty for an illegal tackle on Suliaman.
Once again it was Mngomezulu who pushed Wynberg back some twenty metres inside their own half, but, when the Bishops pack put a well-constructed drive together, Pretorius stopped their advance with a neat touchfinder of his own.
An exchange of kicks saw play move to fifteen metres inside the home half, at which point Wynberg full-back Wandile Notshe made a telling break down the left touchline. Play promptly swung back in the hosts’ favour when Notshe, now back in defence, was caught in possession after fielding another raking Mngomezulu punt, but a penalty for a high tackle helped them get out of jail.
From the resulting line-out just inside the Bishops half Notshe again showed his skills before being held up in a ruck. Much to everyone’s surprise, Thimanga emerged from the mound of bodies and sauntered over unopposed to dot down at the posts, making Pretorius’s conversion a formality. (Bishops 7 Wynberg 7 - 18 minutes)
The visitors were making most of the running at this stage, forcing Bishops to pull out all the stops to slow them down, most often via Mngomezulu’s accurate boot.
Another Berg foray gained impetus when they were awarded a penalty. Ineffective Bishops tackling allowed them to build up momentum, but the hosts’ flyhalf regained all the ground they had made with a raking touchfinder from a ruck penalty.
The hosts moved the ball to the right from the line-out before being awarded another penalty, which Mngomezulu coolly slotted from six metres in from the right and forty metres out. (Bishops 10 Wynberg 7 - 26 minutes)
Workhorse Platinum Blue lock Sam Rudston took the kick-off straight back at Wynberg, but found the visitors’ tackling considerably more determined than that of his own side, his opposite number Daniel Spogter cutting through the defence on a telling run.
Notshe was on hand to field another speculative Mngomezulu punt, but was tackled into touch. From the line-out the Bishops pivot launched an audacious drop goal attempt, but it flew wide to the right of the posts.
Tighthead James Bolton kept the home team on the front foot with a break to the left, but a poor final pass later in the movement prevented what seemed like a certain five points.
Nevertheless, the tide was changing as Bishops showed renewed spirit, forcing Wynberg to fumble when in possession. Bad become worse for the visitors as they were penalised for a dangerous tackle, Mngomezulu splitting the uprights from 40 metres out in front. (Bishops 13 Wynberg 7 - 32 minutes)
Next it was Marthinussen’s turn to drive the striped jerseys back and what started as a skew line-out put-in soon became a penalty to the hosts. The full-back forced Wynberg back into their 22, from where Rudston made several metres, but was judged to have held onto the ball when he found himself isolated. Pretorius’s kick into touch ended the half. Half-time : Bishops 13 Wynberg 7.
Although scrumhalf Matthew Damonze’s restart was fielded and returned by Mngomezulu, the visitors were awarded a penalty 27 metres from the home tryline.
What followed was to become a pattern that repeated itself time and time again during an at times excruciatingly tense second period.
A clean take was followed by another penalty, which Berg - unwisely, as it turned out - chose to charge the Bishops whitewash, conceding a ruck penalty in their urgent efforts to score, which saw the Bishops 10 push them back 33 metres.
Seemingly intent on making things difficult for themselves, Bishops promptly conceded a scrum for a skew throw-in, an advantage the visitors duly messed up by knocking the ball on from the resultant scrum.
This time it was Marthinussen’s turn to make ground down the touchline before he was brought down, after which play was concentrated in midfield for several minutes before Wynberg made good use of two penalties in quick succession to set up a six-metre line-out, at which they were awarded yet another penalty.
This time the decision to use the forwards to attack the tryline paid off as burly hooker Kamva Mgwali was driven over for his side’s second try. Pretorius’s conversion gave the visitors a slender one-point lead. (Bishops 13 Wynberg 14 - 45 minutes)
Wynberg maintained their ascendancy via an enormous fifty-metre touchfinder on receiving the kick-off, but a high tackle ceded a penalty to the hosts, which Mngomezulu - who else ? - used to get the Platinum Blues out of jail.
The home forwards then managed to force a Berg ruck transgression for not releasing the ball, which saw the flyhalf set up a line-out 27 metres from the visitors’ line. Wynberg stole the line-out ball, but again failed to release, allowing Bishops to clear to the left.
When he was stopped in his tracks, Tshimanga offloaded to Pretorius, but he was also caught in possession. At this juncture the visitors were unlucky to lose flank Sipho Dyonase with a knee injury, a setback Bishops exploited by maintaining the pressure. They then found their cause assisted by Wynberg, who stole possession, only to knock the ball on.
From the set piece, scrumhalf Ross Vintcent - normally a full-back - broke left with Rudston in close support. When the backline couldn’t hold onto the ball, a penalty advantage provided the hosts with the vital opportunity to score what proved to be the match-winning try, fittingly dotted down by lock Jack Hampshire, captaining the side as he had done for much of the second term during Isaiah Wharton’s injury-enforced absence. (Bishops 18 Wynberg 14 - 58 minutes)
Tempers frayed at a line-out, with play stopped for several minutes as the law was - belatedly - laid down, the upshot being a second yellow card to the hosts. Wynberg immediately set up a six-metre line-out, at which Bishops stole the ball, allowing Mngomezulu to bring temporary respite.
The visitors were more than up for the contest and right wing Lezaine Davis thrilled their enthusiastic supporters with a forty-metre dash down the touchline, but Berg could not ultimately derive any advantage from this break as they were penalised for closing off and not releasing the ball from the ruck that ensued when he was tackled.
The line-out took play just outside the Bishops 22, at which point the home backline seemed to panic and try to run the ball out of defence, knocking on in the process. Penalties to each side meant play barely moved from inside the home 22 until Berg were able to restore a semblance of sanity with a six-metre line-out.
Another Wynberg penalty saw the hosts steal the ball and, as if they hadn’t learned from what had happened mere minutes earlier, tried to run out of defence.
A scrum advantage was nullified when the Platinum Blues were adjudged not to have released the ball. Wynberg, however, blew this last chance and the whistle for the end of the game - significantly without any time added for the lecture mentioned earlier - sounded, bringing a massive sigh of relief and howls of despair, depending on which side you supported. Final score : Bishops 18 Wynberg 14.
So it was, for the third time in a row, Wynberg performed well above what their season’s statistics will tell you. Mgwali and Tshimanga were huge, literally and figuratively, while the half-backs and outside centre Rethabile Louw were always alert to any possibilities, with no. 15 Wandile Notshe a constant thorn in the hosts’ flesh.
Bishops may have owed a huge debt of thanks to Mngomezulu on the face of it, but the titanic contributions of Rudston and Man of the Match no.8 Jono Bird cannot be underestimated. The Bosch game, hopefully with a full starting line-up restored, promises to be a humdinger.
As for the adversity experienced during and controversy surrounding their victory, this manifested itself in three different ways.
Firstly, the composition of the side was forced, regrettably, to undergo five changes to what would have been the tried and tested line-up for reasons that have no place in this article, but could indeed have contributed significantly to the lacklustre showing against St Andrew’s. However, even that yielded a positive in that several fringe players got their first taste of action in the big league.
Unfortunately, it was the players on the field who were solely responsible for the other two problems that beset this normally well-organized group of youngsters.
They allowed the tigerish visitors to get under their skin, which resulted in two players receiving yellow cards - fortunately at different stages of the game - and, when the pressure became intense in the closing ten minutes, the threequarters visibly lost the plot, which led to very poor option-taking in the backline, particularly in the form of wild passing where a cool head would normally have sought the safety of the touchline.
And yet, Bishops should have been prepared for the Wynberg onslaught as, ironically enough, it was the lads from Lovers Walk who had shown what they were made of when they helped the Platinum Blues’ cause immeasurably by defeating Rondebosch on the latter’s Tinkie Heyns field three weeks ago.