Relentless Bishops Too Hot For Tygers

2016 04 23 9

Everybody loves Raymond !  Tall Paarl Gym lock Raymond Nel takes the ball upfield in the
match against SACS on Saturday 23 April 2016. Gym won 17-13. (photo: Eduan Heyman)  

A solid second-half performance by Bishops put the seal on an impressive 40-14 victory against Tygerberg in Parow on Saturday 23 April 2016.

The local lads must have been wondering how the violent storm of the previous evening was recurring, even though the sky was clear, such was the pressure they found themselves under from a Platinum Blue side determined to put an unspectacular start to the season behind them.

Don’t for a second think that Gavin Beresford’s side simply crumbled under the multi-phase attacking onslaught.  They gave as good as they got for the full seventy minutes, but just couldn’t plug all the gaps created by the visiting backline all the time.

The opening moments gave a surprisingly accurate foretaste of the pattern the match was to follow.  Bishops knocked the ball on and were then penalized at the ensuing maul.  Local hero Tiaan Henecke missed his kick for touch, giving the visitors the opportunity to run the ball back in trademark style down the right, only for them to concede a second penalty.

Although inside centre Ettiene Spies managed to make several metres for the Tygers, Bishops no. 13 Lubelo Scott fielded another inaccurate kick, chipped the ball through and regathered brilliantly to send flank Cullum Diem over for a stunningly simple five-pointer: he received the ball some ten metres out, looked to his left, looked to his right and trotted over untouched in the midst of a horde of players. Scrumhalf Harry Makin added the conversion. (Tygerberg 0 Bishops 7 – 5 minutes)

Bishops lock Christian Stehlik put in a powerful thirty metre drive to put his side back on the front foot from the kick-off, but a penalty at the subsequent breakdown allowed Henecke to send a raking kick out on the visitors’ 22.  The same player took play back upfield after the Platinum Blues had cleared their line, but was caught by the cover defence.

Establishing a five-metre line-out from a penalty, the Parow team lost their throw, were awarded a penalty, which they opted to run, but found the Rondebosch side’s backs in unrelenting defensive form, responding with a rapier-like counterattack of their own.

Back came the Tygers, but they could not make optimal use of their spell of possession, Bishops lock Byron Cranswick’s superb take from a line-out eight metres from his line releasing his backs yet again. 

Bishops were blown up for not releasing the ball in a tackle and the home supporters rose to their feet as quicksilver left-wing Maxwell Osborne gave Angus Firth’s lads a taste of their own medicine with a thrilling 70 metre dash to dive over, allowing Henecke to draw the teams level. (Tygerberg 7 Bishops 7 – 16 minutes)

Breathtaking stuff ? And how !

The Platinum Blues were quick to attack again, pivot James Macdonald driving the hosts back into their 22, but they could make no immediate headway in the face of resolute tackling.  When the breach was made, it was by nuggety Bishops hooker Jason Hofmeyr who deftly created a half-gap to send full-back Brandon van der Westhuizen over. (Tygerberg 7 Bishops 12 – 23 minutes)

An attempt at reducing the deficit from the tee saw Henecke push the ball just wide.  Back came the Platinum Blue wave with captain and flank Jean Pienaar in the vanguard and it took some heroic defensive work by Tyger tighthead Handré Jooste to stem the tide until the attack was halted by a penalty for closing off at a ruck.

Confidence was coursing through the visitors as they launched more attacking forays, which  started when a poor clearance attempt was charged down.  First poor handling cost them dearly, then left wing Ross Goodwin was tackled into touch.

Another aimless clearance allowed Bishops to ply on the pressure, but the locals turned defence into attack, with Henecke being forced into touch on the half-time whistle.  Half time : Tygerberg 7 Bishops 12.

It was evident that Bishops were finding their rhythm, thanks in some part to an unfortunate coincidence.  With inside centre Rob Macdonald, brother of flyhalf James, ruled out through injury, his replacement Rob Lancefield, usually 2nd XV pivot, was drafted in for what was proving to be a sublime debut which earned him the Man of the Match accolade.

A lovely line-out take by the visitors’ lock Byron Cranswick was squandered soon after the break, giving the Tygers a chance to attack.  Spies was tackled metres from the tryline before the Platinum Blues capitalized on a ruck penalty with lightning speed.  Van der Westhuizen slipped an immaculate grubber through the defence, Lancefield collected, drew the defence and sent Scott away for his first try of the game.  Macdonald’s conversion put breathing space between the teams. (Tygerberg 7 Bishops 19 – 39 minutes)

Next it was incisive running by Goodwin and Lancefield that returned play to the Tygers’ red zone, but a Macdonald offload was intercepted.  Undeterred, Goodwin fed van der Westhuizen, who was held up five metres short. 

However, after continued pressure the visitors stretched play wide to the left, leaving Scott to make it look easy with his second five-pointer of the game, goaled coolly by jack-in-the-box Makin.  (Tygerberg 7 Bishops 26 – 47 minutes)

The Tygers weren’t ready to lie down just yet and forged upfield, nailing their colours to the mast by opting to run a goalable penalty, which left them vulnerable at the back.  The price they paid was an ecstatically-received try after a 70m sprint by Seb Prentice, who has been redeployed at flank this season (and even did duty at scrumhalf for a few minutes), which Makin converted.  (Tygerberg 7 Bishops 33 – 51 minutes)

The Bishops supporters hardly had time to take their seats when Henecke displayed his considerable athletic abilities, intercepting a pass virtually on his own tryline to outpace the cover defence and dive over under the crossbar.  His conversion took the Tygers into double figures.  (Tygerberg 14 Bishops 33 – 54 minutes)

Play duly seesawed back in the visitors’ favour, the Platinum Blues setting up a five-metre line-out from a penalty.  From the ruck Macdonald slipped through to score what proved to be the final try of the game with Makin again successful from the tee. (Tygerberg 14 Bishops 40 – 58 minutes)

Try as both sides might, the final twelve minutes of this absorbing contest remained scoreless.

First Heneke set up another raid, which was only stopped when Jooste was driven back, then Bishops had the frustration of knocking on five metres from their opponents’ line, a favour which Tygerberg then embarrassingly returned.

Nevertheless, there was still time for Goodwin to launch himself on an elusive jinking run, any hopes of another try being deflated by another knock-on, which brought the game to a close.  Final score : Tygerberg 14 Bishops 40.

It is probably of little consolation to Tygerberg that their contribution to the spectacle was rather more than the score might suggest.  At the back Henecke, Spies and Osborne were always full of running and ideas, while Jooste, lock Tiaan de Witt and flank Tiaan Schonken ran themselves into the ground.

Bishops took a huge step to recapturing the magic that is their brand of rugby.  The backs functioned very efficiently for a side that’s had its ups and downs already this season.  The big guys up front definitely didn’t stand back, acquitting themselves of their task with distinction.

Sometimes the odd pass went to ground, but the plusses far outweighed the negatives: Hofmeyr was a constant thorn in the hosts’ side and locks Cranswick and Stehlik ensured a stream of quality possession throughout, while Pienaar, Prentice and Diem hunted ferociously throughout.

Most importantly, it’s a near certainty that everybody – spectators and players – left the field with plenty of happy memories of a thrilling match.