On Saturday 25 June St Benedicts College hosted St Johns College in a full morning of rugby fixtures. Players, coaches and supporters were greeted with an icy cold breeze on a typical cold Highveld winters morning. This however did not deter supporters and old boys from both schools from coming out to support their relevant teams in what has become a tightly contested and passionate fixture.
Leading into the fixture history may have had St John’s being the favourites, with them winning four of the encounters since 2004, while St Benedict’s have won three. Added to this St John’s have previously won all the fixtures prior to 2004. Form however seemed to favour the St Benedict’s team as they have had a relatively successful season winning six of their ten fixtures leading into the game. St Benedict’s were however weakened by the unavailability of key players Ouwen Wei, Ri-aq Ploker and Luther Obi who were away on provincial duties with the Golden Lions Academy team. This promised to be a tight and intense affair.
The 1st XV game kicked off in blustery conditions in front of a big crowd with both schools in full warcry. St John’s kicked off and it was apparent from the start that St Benedict’s were keen to play some ball-in-hand rugby. They gathered the ball in and took it through multiple phases, attacking both sides of the field. Their ambition to attack was met by some ferocious St John’s defence with a number of big hits in the opening stages meeting the boys in white. St John's on the other hand seemed to place greater emphasis on field possession and seemed to kick nearly all of their possession down field. However, such a kick resulted in the opening try of the game.
From a botched line-out the loose ball was gathered by St John’s who took advantage of a defensive lapse and some poor tackling to score along side the posts. Soon after St John’s had a further attempt to extend their lead when they received a penalty in the St Benedict’s half. Flyhalf Jason Newton’s attempt however struck the outside of the uprights.
St Benedict’s then finally managed to get their hands on the ball for an extended period that ended with a marvellous box kick from scrumhalf Kyle Oosthuysen that pushed St John's back to their own 5m line. The St Benedict’s locks had seemed to figure out their opponent’s line-out and began to place them under tremendous pressure. This resulted in the 5m line-out going astray which placed St Benedict’s on attack. They managed to keep the pressure on and the attack stayed on the St John’s line for an extended period. Bennies however managed to undo their hard work with poor handling close to the line. They however kept coming back and placing the St John’s defence under pressure, who it must be said were lucky to not receive a more severe punishment for the constant and deliberate infringements.
St Benedict’s then launched an attack from within their own half which saw a well worked backline move create space on the outside for wing Pieter Carter who beat his defender with a chip kick which he re-gathered to score in the corner.
St Benedict’s went straight back on the attack from the kick-off and worked themselves back into the St John's 22. A cynical and deliberate foul by the St John's loosehead saw him yellow carded and a penalty awarded. The resultant penalty was missed by St Benedict’s flyhalf Kyle Hilton.
The next passage of play saw St John’s flyhalf Newton kick another penalty to extend the St John’s lead to 10-5. After a mistake from Newton St Benedict’s were awarded an attacking 5m scrum in the centre of the field. From the resulting seven-man scrum St Benedict’s worked the overlap in textbook fashion to see eighthman and captain Cameron Shafto score. Kieran Varkevisser kicked the conversion to give St Benedict’s a 12-10 lead at the break.
The second half began with both teams conceding numerous turnovers, but St John’s became the team to take advantage of the possession as they put together some wonderful attacking rugby that was matched only by some committed and well organised St Benedict’s defence. St John’s however failed to take full advantage of their territorial and possessional dominance at this stage of the game as they failed to score any points.
The St Benedict’s forwards began to find their rhythm and after some charging runs through the centre of the field the bennies team found themselves back in the St Johns half. St John’s found themselves offside and Kieran Varkevisser had no problem in extending the hosts lead to 15-10. This score seemed to kick-start both teams into the next gear as the game upped in intensity and St John’s went straight back on attack.
St Benedict’s tighthead Luvuyo Pupuma however allowed the heated exchanges and niggle to get to him as he was penalised and yellow-carded for striking a St John’s player. Jason Newton stepped up and dually converted the penalty to narrow the deficit to two points with 20 minutes left to play. Newton then undid his own hard work by kicking a ball dead from within his own 22m. The resulting attacking scrum and pressure resulted in a penalty to St Benedict’s. Kieran Varkevisser had no problem in kicking the penalty to extend the lead to 18-13.
St Johns went straight onto the attack as St Benedict’s failed to control the kickoff and placed the St Benedict’s line under siege. After numerous attempts St John’s finally worked an overlap for the fullback to cross the line. He however dropped the ball in his attempts to ground it. St John’s however kept the pressure on and shortly after St Benedict’s returned to their full quota of players, Jason Newton crashed over from an attacking 5m scrum. The St Benedict’s players were livid as they believed that they had held him up. The controversy however was not over; Newton’s attempted conversion of his try seemed to go over but was waved away by the referee and his assistants. This meant that the score was tied at 18-18.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man; Luvuyo Pupuma had only 10 minutes left to redeem himself and redeem himself he did. With ball in hand he produced some bullocking runs, leaving St John’s defenders in his wake as he produced a 40m break away. However the Bennies backs undid their tighthead’s hard work, knocking the ball on with the try-line beckoning. Pupuma however had not thrown the towel in yet and after another 40m run the ball found its way to wing Pieter Carter who used his speed and stepping to bamboozle the St John’s defenders and create space on the outside for Kieran Varkevisser to score in the corner. Varkevisser was unsuccessful with the conversion.
St John’s refused to give up and where straight back on the St Benedict’s line. The Bennies defence was resolute and refused to let the St John’s team over the line, before forcing a turnover. The kick downfield bounced horribly for the St John’s cover and it seemed as though St Benedict’s young wing Byron Kennedy might score, but was then penalised. St John’s kicked the resultant penalty to touch for the final play of the highly entertaining game. After numerous phases in the St Benedict’s half St John’s flyhalf Newton found himself in a huge gap and a winning score seemed on the cards. He however was met by a thumping cover tackle from St Benedict’s flyhalf Kyle Hilton, and the ball went loose from the collision. The loose ball was gathered by the St Benedict’s cover and then booted into touch by scrumhalf Kyle Oosthuysen to give St Benedict’s a close and hard fought victory.
For St Benedict’s College:
Tries: Pieter Carter, Cameron Shafto, Kieran Varkevisser
Con: Kieran Varkevisser
Pens: Kieran Varkevisser 2
For St John’s College:
Tries: wing, Jason Newton
Cons Jason Newton
Pen: Jason Newton 2
By Dwight Egelhof
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