Itembelihle lost 20-24 to Sedbergh College of England in the dying minutes of a pulsating game which was played at an electrifying pace with both sides running the ball from everywhere.
Itembelihle were outsized, but definitely not outplayed, by their bigger opponents. Sedbergh’s mauling and pick-and-go were of the best seen at school level for a long time.
Itembelihle won the toss and elected to play against the wind on a wet, muddy field with long grass (which suited the visitors). Itembelihle camped in the opponents' 22 in the opening 10 minutes before Sedbergh worked their way upfield through their strong ball-carriers.
Itembelihle were first to score when flyhalf Lwandile Dabalele converted an easy penalty in front of the poles. Sedbergh came back strongly and pinned Itembelihle in their our own 22 and after sustained pressure, flank Ollie Samson barged over for the first of his two tries. From the kick-off Itembelihle turned a ball over in their own half and after some great inter passing between backs and forwards, flyhalf Dabalele went over under the poles for a try which he converted himself. Half-time 10-5 to Itembelihle.
Sedbergh came out firing in the second half, they upped the tempo and put Itembelihle under huge pressure, but the home side hung in, putting in massive tackles and turning over quite a number of the opponents’ balls. Here flank Sive Fuku was brilliant on the ground.
Prop Bratt Spratt forced his way over from a penalty on the Itembelihle line and flyhalf Grant Nicholson converted, Itembelihle had their hands full as Sedbergh came with an all-out assault and only a huge defensive effort kept the visitors out.
Wing Balb Mbangi was denied , what seemed like a legitimate try after they attacked from their 22, with props Bantu Mene and Athenkosi Maswana prominent in the build up, only for the touch judge to rule that he had stepped on the line. Five minutes later centre Ludwe Jack broke strongly, fullback Siya Nyalungu joined the line and put wing Mbangi in the clear to score in the corner. Dabalele converted for a 17-10 lead.
Sedbergh came back, rucking and mauling impressively and another huge defensive effort from Itembelihle kept them out! But something had to give as Samson again got over the line with three guys hanging on to him for dear life. Nicholson converted, 17-17.
Itembelihle attacked from a scrum and a penalty was awarded at the ensuing ruck, Dabalele dually converted, 20-17.
With time running out, Itembelihle were awarded a penalty inside their half and instead of kicking it out, they decided to run the ball, Sedbergh turned the ball over in a ruck and attacked with their forwards. Itembelihle defended with all they had, putting in huge hits, but kept on giving penalties away and from a penalty on their goal line, Sedbergh played quickly, using their big forwards with great effect, for Jonathan Marshall to fall over for the winning try. Nicholson converted to give the visitors a hard-fought 24-20 victory over a gallant home team!
Outstanding for Itembelihle were fullback Dabalele, props Maswana and Mene and centre and captain Ludwe Jack.
By Theo Pieterse
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