Tension mounts in intense rugby clash

2012-05-15 00:00

THE much-anticipated match on Meadows at Michaelhouse, where they hosted Maritzburg College, was a game of two halves, and more like a game of two matches. This was due to a thunderstorm and heavy rain with a spattering of hail, which interrupted play for just on 40 minutes. The final 23-20 result, in favour of Michaelhouse, kept the more die-hard supporters who had not left, on the edges of their wet seats.

At most venues, the sides would probably have played on, but the alarm had sounded of the approaching storm and the visible lightning flashes. As Michaelhouse is in a dangerous lightning area, all players and specatators found shelter in surrounding buildings.

As the storm clouds moved on, the sun came out and the rain stopped, and it was a beautiful autumnal afternoon. After a brief warm up, play got under way with World Cup top referee Craig Joubert in control. Meadows drainage is excellent and although the ball was slippery, handling not as slick as it had been and players sometimes losing their footing on the wet surface, there was little mud.

Michaelhouse had moved the ball with skill, and were looking ominous from early on in the first half. Joubert had been made aware of the possibility of the game being stopped, and with about two minutes remaining in the half, the lightning flashes were quite close. He realised that if he could bet the game through to half time, then it would be classified as an official result.

When he blew for half time, everyone had scattered just before the rain came down in buckets. At that stage, the home side was full value for the 20-8 lead that they had taken. College had been outplayed in the rucks where Michaelhouse had made numerous turnovers, and when the threequarters were given space, they were particularly dangerous.

The second half was more to College’s liking, as they started dominating when the ball was kept among the forwards. The authority in the game had changed with the different conditions, and College outscored the hosts by 12 points to three in the second period. If the College place-kicking had been more on target, they could have won fairly comfortably.

College had marked the mercurial Michaelhouse centre, Michael Mvelase, closely. This allowed Robbie Anderson greater freedom, and he used it effectively. The first try came when he broke close to the half-way line and with Mvelase running with him ready for the pass, Anderson cut through the defence to score and convert for a 7-0 lead. College struck back almost immediately and almost got over the line, with a penalty shortly after slotted by Jesse Kriel. Anderson replied a few minutes later, and the home side led 10-3.

College scored their first try when Jacque Conradie drove from a lineout, but with the conversion missed, the scores stood at 8-10. For the remainder of the half it was all Michaelhouse. Anderson converted his second penalty, and after a good driving run by Justin Moon, he passed outside to wing Kyle Harrison, whose pace carried him over in the corner. An 0conversion from Anderson put Michaelhouse 20-8 ahead.

Two early penalties in the second half were missed in the half dominated by College. A pick and drive by the forwards enabled N. Gumede to drive over, but it was not converted. Kriel then ran through the middle, evading numerous tackles to score next to the posts. Marcel Coetzee converted, and College had drawn level.

With the wet ball, the Michaelhouse backs could not handle as well as they had, but as the grass dried so they again built pressure. A run into the College half in the last few minutes earned a penalty at the break down, and Anderson converted from an angle for the Michaelhouse win.

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