Michaelhouse cruise to victory

2014-07-01 00:00

HILTON College hosted traditional rivals Michaelhouse on Saturday in the 110th year of rugby between the schools as the curtain came down on the season for both teams.

As has been the norm through the years, this was the place to be in the Midlands as a sizeable crowd gathered around the hallowed Gilfillan field. This is an event, a tradition that draws support for both schools from far and wide, with many old boys from both establishments making the sacrifice to see the old schools do battle.

Going into the game, Michaelhouse definitely had the upper hand having enjoyed a strong and consistent season and the general chatter among the Hilton supporters was the hope of the men in black and white at least making a game of it and giving their all on home turf.

Unfortunately for Hilton, Michaelhouse never read the script and were untroubled in cruising to a 39-12 win and ending a season thathas been tough and uncompromising for Hilton.

South African international referee Craig Joubert took charge of the match and from the kick-off, Michaelhouse made their intentions clear, applying pressure and enjoying strong ball retention. They immediately asked questions of the brittle Hilton defence, camping in the 22 and edging closer to the line. It was a matter of how long Hilton could offer any resistance and the question was soon answered when a clinical break close to the line saw the visitors cross for the first of their five tries.

Flyhalf Bader Pretorius added the conversion and Hilton were behind early with all the work to do. Hilton battled to get their hands on the ball early on and poor lineout work added to their woes, although the visitors also lost ball on their own throw at times.

With Michaelhouse controlling the ball well and going forward, Hilton were hard-pressed to make their vital first-time tackles, an area where they were found wanting as Michaelhouse’s backs and forwards made vital yards whenever going forward before being brought down.

Spreading the ball wide and running into space, Michaelhouse’s centre pairing of Brandon Tattam and Michael Tatham sliced through Hilton’s defence on numerous occasions and Tatham was rewarded when he crossed the line, Pretorius converting, for a 14-0 lead.

Hilton did try to get on the board and enjoyed some moments of attack, but the Michaelhouse defence stood firm, Hilton lacking the firepower to break through and losing the ball at crucial moments, metres from the line, allowing the visitors to recover and settle once more.

A Pretorius penalty (17-0) kept the scoreboard ticking the wrong way for Hilton and, as the half wound down, it was Michaelhouse who ran with purpose and flair on attack. Spreading the ball well among the backs, the Michaelhouse runners were able to stretch their legs, scrumhalf and captain Thomas Walker enjoying a powerful run which saw him brought down close to Hilton’s tryline and wing Liam Furniss making probing strides down the right.

With a solid advantage and playing with confidence, Michaelhouse opted to kick for the corner, turning down some kickable opportunities and from one such decision, Pretorius broke the line to dot down unchallenged under the posts. His conversion left the half time score at 24-0 and his team knowing nothing less than a massive miracle would stop them doing the double over Hilton this season, having won 20-13 at Balgowan earlier in the season.

For the Hilton supporters, it was a case of hoping their side would at least get on the board and the hosts started the second half with some purpose. Michaelhouse countered well and, thankfully for Hilton, the final pass never went to hand, preventing further damage on the scoreboard. Hilton did cross the line only to be held up and lose the ball from the resulting scrum. Pretorius added another penalty (27-0) just to remind everyone who was in charge and Hilton finally got on the board when lock Peter Frost forced his way over after sustained pressure from a series of rucks. Centre Darren McGhee hit the post with the conversion and at 27-5 it was a case of how many points Hilton could make up.

Further misery was added with another converted Michaelhouse try (34-5) and the biggest cheer for Hilton came when Michaelhouse dropped the ball on attack and Hilton wing Leo van Wymeersch pounced for a breakaway try under the posts, McGhee converting (34-12).

As the match neared its end, Michaelhouse found the gas for one final burst, scoring an unconverted try in the corner to round off a solid afternoon’s work.

Michaelhouse’s tries were scored by Pretorius (2), Walker, Tatham and Tattam. Pretorius added four conversions and two penalties. Hilton had tries by Frost and Van Wymeerscht with McGhee converting one.

For Hilton, there is confidence in seeing the U14, U15 and U16 sides looking strong, something that bodes well for next season and beyond. This season has been hard on the boys and one best laid to rest with eyes focused on the future.

For Michaelhouse, it was a season that saw the team bond and work well together. When they won, they won handsomely and their losses were cases of what could have been with a few points separating them from victory.

They will bask in the glory of doing the double over Hilton but that is now history and next year waits. Talk is already doing the rounds of both schools having more than useful sides in 2015 and the clashes between the two schools are anticipated with passion and pride.

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