Paarl Gym Atone For 2015 Defeat

“Way to go, Coach !” Paarl Gym flank Corné Uys, the Man of the Match, tries to avoid the
clutches of Bishops hooker, Ghaalib Kenny (left) during his side’s 44-24 victory at
the Piley Rees on Saturday 3 June 2017. (Photo: Peter Heeger/Gallo Images)

Paarl Gym laid to rest the ghost of their 32-35 defeat on the Piley Rees in 2015 when they beat hosts Bishops 44-24 at the same venue on Saturday 3 June 2017.

The blustery north-westerly wind, which unfortunately grew in strength during the course of the game, might have played havoc with kicking both out of hand and from the tee, but it did not prevent both sides from playing attractive rugby in the best traditions of the local schoolboy game.

The deciding factor was ultimately the unremitting intensity with which the visiting side played.  For example, were it not for the first minute and the last two, the score would only have been 29-24!

Although the hosts’ game has shown a heartening improvement in the past month or so, they still couldn’t avoid making several basic errors, at least one of which resulted in a Paarl Gym try.

The game had barely started when the Gym pack powered up the left before slipping the ball to slightly-built wing Hanco Hanekom, who dived over just inside the corner flag.  (Bishops 0 Paarl Gym 5 – 1 minute)

Gym maintained the pressure from the restart, but a promising 30 metre run by Bishops scrumhalf Ross Goodwin, followed by two successive penalties, allowed his team-mate, hooker Ghaalib Kenny, to keep them just outside the home 22-metre area. 

Not even the first of several crisp line-out takes by Bishops flank Matt Norton could defuse the impact the wind was having on the hosts’ attempts to clear their line.  Then, when Gym did manage to steal a line-out, an (uncharacteristic on the day) knock-on halted the visitors’ progress.

Ironically Bishops found an escape route when they were awarded a penalty for illegal scrummaging by their opponents, who had almost driven them off the ball.  With the defence caught napping, Platinum Blue inside centre George Spencer chipped the ball into open space and would certainly have picked up and dived over near the scoreboard, was it not for a cruel bounce.

Gym pivot Daniël Beukes used the conditions to launch a huge touch finder and, when the hosts tried to run out of defence again, resolute driving the by the northern Paarl pack forced them onto the retreat.

Lovely footwork by the visitors’ right wing Stravino Jacobs opened the way for crisp inter-passing down the left between Hanekom and inside centre François Marais to put Bishops under severe pressure.  A great line-out take by lock Adriaan Ludick quickly found its way to livewire no. 8 Henco Martins, who dived over for his fourteenth try of 2017.  Beukes raised the flags.  (Bishops 0 Paarl Gym 12 – 14 minutes)

Goodwin again showed his dramatic speed off the mark when the northern Paarl team were penalised, but several penalties for not releasing the ball in rucks almost cost the hosts dearly, Gym only failing to add to their score when they were blown up for obstruction.

Spencer broke sharply out of defence again, only for a loose pass to break the attacking momentum.  The Platinum Blues were immediately left to reflect on another mistake when a knock-on was picked up by Martins, who created an overlap which gave full-back Muller du Plessis a clear run-in behind the posts.  Beukes added the conversion.  (Bishops 0 Paarl Gym 19 – 20 minutes)

With the bit firmly between their teeth, the visiting eight drove forward following a clean line-out take by lock Dré Engelbrecht, but lost the ball, enabling home full-back James Ipser to break down the left.  A wayward pass put paid to that move, but a Gym knock allowed Bishops to continue to press until they conceded a penalty for diving onto a tackled player.

Next Kenny made his presence felt with a fifteen-metre surge before Goodwin fed Spencer, who rode several tackles. A penalty followed by a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown by Gym finally allowed the Platinum Blues to attack in depth, the reward coming when lock Aidan Neill forced his way over from a five-metre line-out.  (Bishops 5 Paarl Gym 19 – 28 minutes)

Whether it was the continued threat posed by the Bishops counterattack or just the realisation that the strong wind would soon be in their faces, Gym opted to go for the posts from a penalty in an excellent attacking position.  Beukes obliged. (Bishops 5 Paarl Gym 22 – 30 minutes)

Goodwin ran a tap penalty 45 metres upfield with Spencer on hand to press home the advantage before the hosts conceded a scrum for accidental obstruction.  Hanekom came within a whisker of collecting a huge punt by Beukes, but it was the locals who showed the fight to run back at their bigger opponents.

The result was a brilliant try, the lanky Ipser breaking clear on the right before timing his pass to outside-centre Rob Macdonald to perfection, giving the home captain an unimpeded 40-metre path to the posts.  Kenny goaled the try right on the half-time break.  Half-time: Bishops 12 Paarl Gym 22.

The opening minutes of the second half belonged to Ludick, the giant second-rower taking the restart cleanly, before being on hand to receive a pass from Muller du Plessis.  Then, after Kenny had set up an attacking line-out, which the hosts contrived to lose, the big man popped up at the end of a counterattacking movement to thunder over.  Beukes’s conversion attempt, taken dangerously close to the posts to counteract the wind, was charged down.  (Bishops 12 Paarl Gym 27 – 41 minutes)

The visiting pack was starting to exert its dominance in all phases, first being forced out just inside the Platinum Blues’ half, then earning a penalty from which an attacking line-out was established.  Their efforts were in vain on this occasion, as Martins was robbed of possession, allowing Kenny room to put in a 40-metre touch finder.

Muller du Plessis combined with Jacobs to attack down the right, but the attack was stymied by a knock-on and, when the stoic Bishops defence wobbled a little when a loose ball went astray, Ipser managed to regain control and kick ahead, the ball rolling out five metres from the Paarl Gym try line.

Jacobs carried the ball well out of defence before being tackled by Bishops counterpart Matt du Plessis.  The hosts drove forward from the line-out but conceded possession when their rolling maul was held up.

Despite a knock-on spoiling further powerful work by Ludick, Martins was on hand to steal the loose ball when a Bishops player was tackled and corkscrew his way over for Beukes to convert. (Bishops 12 Paarl Gym 34 – 56 minutes)

The hosts had their own share of good fortune when a touch finder was given too much air, resulting in a Bishops line-out a disappointing thirty metres from the visitors’ try line. 

However, a penalty gave them the chance to establish an ideal attacking platform five metres out, an opportunity that Norton gratefully accepted, crashing over in the corner.  Ipser raised both local cheers and the flags with a brilliant conversion. (Bishops 19 Paarl Gym 34 – 62 minutes)

The hosts weren’t finished, either, Ipser making a penetrative break down the right touchline before offloading to Macdonald whose pass to Murray Bruce saw the replacement wing slip, regain his footing and dive over midway out.  (Bishops 24 Paarl Gym 34 – 64 minutes)

Gym was quick to respond via another Ludick stampede after which Muller du Plessis returned the ball to the heavy men and a quickly-taken tap penalty saw scrumhalf Jean van Rensburg dart over wide on the right. (Bishops 24 Paarl Gym 39 – 69 minutes)

After Gym had kicked a loose ball, not even two despairing covering tackles by Goodwin were enough to prevent the ball being fed to Jacobs for the right wing to complete the scoring in the last action of the match.  Final score: Bishops 24 Paarl Gym 44.

One wouldn’t have thought that both teams faced enforced changes.  Dré Engelbrecht had a very satisfactory outing deputising for Ryno Beukes in Gym’s second row, while Ross Doyle looked quite at home at loose-head for the Platinum Blues.

Although George Spencer was arguably the pick of the home side, even if he tended to go it alone to the extent that he sometimes baffled his own support players as much as his opponents, Goodwin, Kenny and Norton all showed plenty of class. It was also a pleasure to see James Ipser having the confidence to join the line, in the process creating several fine attacking options.   

Analyses of Gym’s performances always tend to revolve around Martins, Ludick and du Plessis, but the exemplary foraging, reminiscent at times of former WP icon Boland Coetzee, of flank Corné “Coach” Uys, the Man of the Match, contributed as much as anyone to this deserved victory.

Notwithstanding the wind, this match provided a fitting climax to a wonderful day’s rugby.

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