Donkeys Give Bishops Some Anxious Moments

Oakdale Rugby 02a

In good nick !  Oakdale outside centre Nicolus van Eeden eagerly accepts the chance to stretch his
legs in his side’s 23-20 home victory over Paul Roos on Saturday. (photo: Marlene Carstens)

A disciplined second-half performance enabled Bishops to beat HTS Drostdy 31-23 at the Piley Rees on Saturday 14 May 2016.

While the early morning mist gradually evaporated to provide a lovely sunny morning – ideal conditions for attractive running rugby – a slight breeze did favour the side playing towards the school buildings.

The game started with a trademark 40 metre charge by Bishops tighthead JP Smith from the kick-off.  The big front-rower even had the presence of mind to put a grubber through when the defence caught him, but a forward pass after the resultant line-out cost the hosts the chance of opening the score.

Despite having a line-out put-in stolen, the Platinum Blues regained possession and attacked through flyhalf James Macdonald and inside centre Rob Lancefield, but turned the ball over in the ensuing ruck. 

The Donkeys response was emphatic. Burly tighthead Cameron Visagie carried the ball fifteen metres before putting in an inch-perfect chip which was taken on the bounce by left wing Bradley van Turha who outpaced the cover defence to dot down his eighteenth try of the campaign in the corner.  (Bishops 0 HTS Drostdy 5 – 6 minutes)

Nuggety Bishops left wing Ross Goodwin soon stepped and dodged his way out of a tight defensive situation to set up an attack which was carried on by flank Seb Prentice and right wing Tristan Hermans, but the vital last pass went astray.

Impressive Drostdy flyhalf Dimitri Moffat drove the hosts back to ten metres short of the half-way line, the momentum being maintained by the forwards, who took play to within 22 metres of the Bishops tryline. 

A fine line-out take by the hosts’ captain and no. 8 Jean Pienaar, followed by a penalty, saw the Platinum Blues run the ball, Hermans’ kick-ahead rolling out eight metres from the Donkeys’ line.  Smith managed to seize possession at the ruck after the line-out to force his way over in the right corner.  (Bishops 5 HTS Drostdy 5 – 12 minutes)

The old adage that a team is at its most vulnerable just after it has scored proved true as a very optimistic lofted pass was comfortably intercepted by alert Drostdy outside centre Timothy Allies, who drew the sole cover defender to give Moffat a clear run-in. (Bishops 5 HTS Drostdy 10 – 14 minutes)

Play see-sawed back in Bishops’ favour, a beautiful break by outside centre Lubelo Scott taking play to within eight metres of the visitors’ line, allowing scrumhalf Harry Makin to sneak over near the posts.  His conversion finally put the hosts ahead. (Bishops 12 HTS Drostdy 10 – 17 minutes) 

The home team launched another attack, but Drostdy full-back Berto le Roux stood firm, running out of defence and linking up with the mobile Visagie and flank Louwrens du Toit.  However, this enterprise could not be translated into points, Moffat pushing a penalty attempt just wide.

Play swung between the 22s again as, first, towering Donkeys flank Albert Liebenberg, then Goodwin and finally the visitors’ right wing Lourens van der Berg made telling ground, but the net result was a wayward Drostdy pass denying them what looked like a certain try.

The hosts’ alarming tendency to foul up their line-out put-ins continued with a skew throw, but they were let out of jail by an accidental offside infringement by the Worcester team shortly afterwards.

The Platinum Blues were dominating possession, but with no pereceptible effect, as they ran the ball upfield, had a potential try-scoring pass intercepted and were then penalized for holding on in a ruck. 

When the attempt at goal failed, Goodwin and full-back Brandon van der Westhuizen sent Prentice on another rampaging run, which, like so many others, petered out.

Moffat, temporarily redeployed to full-back while Le Roux received medical attention. made his presence felt again with a delightful chip, which the Bishops defence promptly knocked on behind their own line. 

However, relief did come when the Donkeys were penalized at the five-metre scrum.  Macdonald gained twenty metres with his kick, but another line-out mess-up saw Liebenberg first gain and then lose possession in a desperate tackle.

It took further fine runs by van der Westhuizen and Smith to put the hosts back onto the front foot, but timely intervention by the tireless Visagie gave Moffat the chance to take play back to within 28 metres of the Bishops line.

Drostdy failed to capitalize on an overlap, but did manage to edge ahead when the locals were adjudged offside at a ruck.  Moffat converted the penalty to give his side the lead.  Half time : Bishops 12 HTS Drostdy 13.

The home team took their comedy of unforced errors to a new level when they were blown up for being in front of the kick-off, allowing the Donkeys’ no. 8 Nicolas Wilkinson to make good ground.  Then, when Lancefield and van der Westhuizen had seemingly restored the team’s equilibrium, a ruck penalty undid all their good work.

Fortunately more mesmerizing footwork by Goodwin stretched the defence, presenting Scott with a generous gap, which he slipped through to dot down after a twenty-metre dash.  Makin added the conversion. (Bishops 19 HTS Drostdy 13 – 40 minutes)

Fine foraging by Platinum Blues lock Luke Viljoen was defused by the umpteenth Bishops ruck infringement, allowing Visagie and front-row partner hooker Greyling Geldenhuys to put their side in an attacking position, which was ultimately effectively utilized by Moffat from the tee. (Bishops 19 HTS Drostdy 16 – 43 minutes) 

Lock Alnikho Kruger put a re-energized Drostdy side back on the attack, but a penalty allowed Macdonald to relieve his line.  Undeterred, the Donkeys continued to press, but a line-out turnover saw the Bishops flyhalf make optimal use of the breeze with a forty metre touchfinder.

Next Lancefield made good ground, earning his side a penalty which Macdonald put out seven metres from the visitors’ line.  Quick ruck ball saw the hosts swing the ball to the right for Man of the Match van der Westhuizen to slice through and score. (Bishops 24 HTS Drostdy 16 – 51 minutes)

A high tackle, which earned the Platinum Blues a yellow card, saw the Donkeys take play to a line-out on their hosts’ 22 metre line, which they then generously put in skew. 

Both sides were guilty of poor handling and play remained in the Bishops red zone and the visitors provided further proof that they weren’t immune to line-out mishaps either, ruining their gilt-edged attacking opportunity by knocking on the throw-in.

Fortunately, van der Westhuizen spotted a gap and launched into a marvellous 65 metre break to relieve the immediate pressure.  Overelaboration by both sides saw the hosts remain on attack and a fine pick-up on the run by van der Westhuizen paved the way for Smith to batter his way forward.

Moving the ball rapidly from side to side, Bishops then found themselves awarded a penalty try when illegal interference prevented Smith from dotting down.  Makin completed their scoring from in front of the posts. (Bishops 31 HTS Drostdy 16 – 65 minutes)

To their credit, the Worcester lads attacked with renewed vigour and were justly rewarded with a sniping try by scrumhalf Romeo Eksteen.  Moffat’s hasty conversion, which was followed by the final whistle, had little effect on the result. Final score : Bishops 31 HTS Drostdy 23.    

Should you have noticed the rather stop-start style of this match report, this has simply been harnessed to provide an accurate reflection of a match of many chances at both ends, too few of which were taken.

The visitors were highly competitive throughout, but found playing into the breeze just too much against a home team that had received a stern talking-to at the water-break.  The forwards put in many hard yards, Visagie and Liebenberg in particular catching the eye.  Out back, the dynamic van Turha and hard-running van der Berg would surely have caused even more problems, had they been given optimal possession with which to work.

Bishops will regard this as a game that, had it been played against more efficient opposition, might well have resulted in another defeat.  The line-outs were regularly the stuff of nightmares, but, fortunately, not sufficiently so to hamstring their fast men at the back, who saw enough of the ball to ensure that local supporters went home with cautious smiles.

The fixture list has been kind to Gus Firth’s side, who host struggling Durbanville this coming weekend, not that that is hardly likely provide them with much comfort as Paarl Gym lie in wait in a fortnight’s time.