A REMARKABLE 19-point turnaround in a matter of minutes saw the Michaelhouse first XV outlast St Charles College 29-17 on Meadows Saturday 28 April 2018 after the scores were locked 10-10 at half-time.
Well-managed by experienced referee Danie Joubert, the fixture made for a highly entertaining spectacle that did justice to the Michaelhouse Old Boys who had travelled from far and wide to celebrate Reunion Day 2018, particularly the Class of 1988 who were celebrating their 30th .
Among the Class of 88 it was great to finally meet Vik Ramnath in person and to chat with Warwick Rebeck.
Let’s get back to the rugby…
As much as the first half was exciting, the essential drama unfolded after the changeover.
Resuming at 10-10 after the break, the Saints started the second half with a bang, but were held up over the tryline. The subsequent 5-metre scrum saw lock forward and captain Luke Adam’s lads mount a wave of assaults that brought their pack’s ball-carrying weapons – number 8 Maziko Theu among them – within what appeared to be mere centimetres of the whitewash.
The Michaelhouse defence, led from the front by inspirational captain and number 8 Christian Oppies Opperman were courage personified. Himself a Michaelhouse Old Boy, Saints coach Nick Jacko Jackson’s charges – no matter how hard they tried – couldn’t unlock the Michaelhouse defence during this tension-filled passage of play.
However, the relentless pressure had to tell – and the Saints schoolboys packed into the stands facing the school – erupted when their unflagging support was rewarded, flyhalf Braden Muir skilfully evading the defensive screen a little wider of the sets of 8 upfront to score under the posts. Fullback Luyanda Prince Mazeka converted for Saints to take a 17-10 lead with 23 minutes left.
But from that point on, the Michaelhouse first XV conjured up the match-winning shift.
The home side launched an attack shortly after the re-start that was stopped by the Saints defenders in the right-hand corner. However, House refused to be denied, inside centre Chris Hardie exploiting a gap in the stretched Saints defence to crash over. Flyhalf Liam England slotted the conversion and MHS were all-square at 17-17 with 14 minutes left.
Soon after the Saints’ re-start, a dazzling run from inside the Michaelhouse half (by winger Michael Gomes, I think?) was rounded off in style when outside centre and vice-captain Dane Fischer flew over the tryline wide-left… and at 22-17 in this fast-paced muscle-up, House took the lead for the third time.
The astonishing turnaround was completed by coach James Fleming’s Michaelhouse line-up when irrepressible winger Gomes again broke free – this time out on the right. MHS pivot Liam England duly converted.
House had turned a 10-17 deficit into a 29-17 inside 10 minutes.
And with 10 or so minutes left to full-time, Saints knew it was now or never.
Saints’ lock and captain Luke Adam’s re-energised pack launched a ferocious assault on the MHS tryline and the spectators’ stand in the left-hand corner was a great vantage point from which to witness the physicality of both sets of forwards. Despite the immense pressure, the hugely spirited home-side defence led by skipper Oppies Opperman were not interested in relinquishing their hard-earned 12-point winning margin, stopping charge after charge mere metres from their goalline.
# It was an ebb-and-flow match-up between two willing sides who attacked at every opportunity but were also prepared to do the hard yards in defence.
The Michaelhouse and St Charles schoolboys’ non-stop support with drums, war-cries and school songs added wonderful colour to the spectacle.
Saints euphoria: The St Charles College boys celebrate touchdown time.
Photo Martin Ashworth … the first half…
* The highlights of an entertaining first half kicked off when MHS took advantage of a couple of unforced SCC errors that were eventually punished via a Liam England penalty goal (3-0). Saints’ fullback Prince Mazeka cancelled it out with another relatively straightforward penalty for 3-3 after 6 minutes. Just 4 minutes later it was touchdown time for MHS when outside centre Dane Fischer – slicing open the Saints defence – scored the first of his two tries in this pulsating match. Liam England added the 2 points (10-3).
Midway through the first half concerted pressure was rewarded when Saints transferred the oval ball left before flyhalf Braden Muir slipped the perfect inside pass to flanker Brent Louwrens for try-time. Prince Mazeka converted for the electronic scoreboard to read 10-10.
The next couple of plays were to deny Saints a possible first-half lead. A gilt-edged Saints opportunity went a-begging via a handling error just one pass away from try-time. Hardly a minute later what seemed to be yet another lock-stock-and-barrel SCC try went awry following an unforced error.
The frenetic pace continued unabated when Michaelhouse fullback Mike Brownlee produced a jinking 40-metre run but his chip into space towards the right-hand corner found the touchline a split-second ahead of his flying right-winger Michael Gomes. And 5 minutes to half-time Michaelhouse took full advantage of a breakdown in mid-field for skipper Oppies Opperman to break free but his rampaging 30-metre run was halted 20-odd metres ahead of touchdown following an excellent back-tackle by SCC 10 Braden Muir.
The home side finished the half strongly, discarding a kickable penalty option for an attacking lineout but the SCC pack of 8 doused the Michaelhouse flame as the clock ticked down.
Exciting as the first half was, little did we know where the second half would take us…
Both sides’ defensive efforts within the 5-metre range ahead of try-time was a feature of this high-tempo muscle-up.
Photo: Martin Ashworth
Michaelhouse 1st XV
15 Mike Brownlee
14 Michael Gomes
13 Dane Fischer (vice-capt)
12 Chris Hardie
11 Thamsanqa Zakwe
10 Liam England
9 Lance Reynolds
8 Christian Opperman (capt)
7 Torin Mecklenborg
6 James Moodie
5 Nick Crampton
4 Dan Dillon
3 Liam Friend
2 Mpho Mthethwa
1 Andrew Holt
16 Matthew Holt
17 Brandon Jewell
18 James Kiln
19 James Armstrong
20 Andrew Daly
21 Luc Pousson
22 Philip Thomas
Coach: James Fleming
St Charles College 1st XV
15 Luyanda Mazeka
14 Nathaniel Sisia
13 Scott Anderson
12 Sbusiso Zakwe
11 Garrett Frier
10 Braden Muir
9 JJ Foord
8 Maziko Theu
7 Ronan Diedricks
6 Brent Louwrens
5 Luke Adam (capt)
4 Sean McCord
3 Erich Ortmann
2 Armin Jooste
1 Mphumelelo Sithole
16 Siyabonga Mzolo
17 Jason Robert
18 Mphemba Mbhele
19 Aaron Wood
20 Luke Jones
21 Ruben Jacobs
22 Zukile Mbuli
23 Jeremy de Beer
Coaches: Nick Jackson & Petrus du Plessis
Physio: Garth Oliver
# I managed to properly watch a couple of other matches:
* The second XV clash saw a remarkable change of fortunes. An 8-0 St Charles lead in the first quarter turned into an 8-22 deficit as Michaelhouse seconds enjoyed a purple patch down the left. Another try on half-time saw House change over with a healthy 27-8 lead.
* The match-winning factor in this game was Michaelhouse’s ability to punch holes in the St Charles defence both in midfield and out wide – be it on the left or right – and 34-8 with 23 minutes left turned into a 66-20 scoreline at the final whistle.
* The U14A “dawn patrol” contest at 8am on Willows was an action-packed affair, with the scoreline reading 12-12 at match-end. This was also the half-time score. The early-morning dew made for a slippery ball, which unfortunately undid a number of try-scoring opportunities.
* Saints probably deserved to win this one as they had an advantage in the forwards and produced some exciting running – particularly by the fullback when counter-attacking from deep. There were a couple of disputed decisions at key moments in this match, which also cost the visitors points. That said, House also had their opportunities with ball in hand.
*All the players can be commended for their commitment and spirit, as well as the number of technically excellent tackles that were effected.
(MHS scores first)
1st XV 29-17
Overall (like vs like i.e A vs A, B vs B, C vs C etc)
Michaelhouse won 7 & St Charles 3 with 1 drawn.