St Charles keep top boys on their toes

2008-06-16 00:00

St Charles supporters, boosted by past students on their Old Boys’ Day, raised the efforts of the schools’ first team as they gave their more illustrious opponents, Michaelhouse, a few worried moments on Saturday.

Michaelhouse, heavily favoured and arguably the top team in the province this year, eventually ran out 21-6 winners, but at the half-way stage St Charles were deservedly leading 6-0 before the Balgowan team came through to win.

One of the largest crowds seen around Harwins ground in recent years witnessed a tense and exciting match, with the final scoreline not truly reflecting the intensity of the game.

Was it complacency from the Balgowan lads or did St Charles pressurise the visitors into making mistakes and prevent them from playing with their usual fluency? It was probably more the committed effort of St Charles that flustered the visitors, although the Michaelhouse players would, with some justification, have expected an easier ride.

St Charles, in the first half, were better in the tackle situation and, although the tight phases were evenly contested, the tactic of kicking for the corners definitely kept Michaelhouse on the backfoot. If Jaco Potgieter had his kicking boots with him, St Charles could have been 18 points up at the break. Instead, he only converted two penalties, although some of those he attempted were difficult kicks.

In the second period Michaelhouse were much more competitive and, with quality in their backline, were able to score the three tries that counted. In most of the matches played this year Michaelhouse have produced their best rugby in the second half and so it was again in this match.

The home side tried to run more of the ball that they won during the second half, but when they made mistakes, Michaelhouse were able to counter, with flyhalf Reef Nakin producing some magical runs.

The first try in the second half went to prop forward Gary Mann, giving Ruan Combrinck an easy two points for the visitors to take a slender one-point lead for the first time in the game.

After about 20 minutes in the half, Nakin used the blind side to good effect and then passed inside to wing Matthew Purnell, who dived over in the corner. Combrinck this time landed a magnificent conversion kick to put his side 14-6 ahead.

St Charles did not lie down and still attacked in the last 15 minutes and it was only on the stroke of full-time that Combrinck scored a superb try down the wing. The conversion was again from close to the touch line and he made certain for the 21-6 win.

This was a little flattering to the visitors, but it was the quality of the pace out wide that enabled tries to be scored when needed.

It was a fine game of rugby played in a good spirit and demonstrated both the improvement of the St Charles team and the threat posed by the Michaelhouse backs.

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