St. John’s College Make It Three In A Row Against St. Stithians

RC Saints4


St. John’s College of Johannesburg boosted their confidence levels ahead of their upcoming Easter Rugby Festival by recording a good win of 25-17 against St. Stithians at Saints in Randburg on Saturday.
This is the third win in a row for St. John’s over Saints, after beating them 27-22 in 2016 and 29-26 in 2015. St. John’s are marching on strong, winning fans as they go along, after already claiming the scalps of Parktown, Jeppe and St. Benedict’s this season.
The star of the show was the captain of St. John’s, Kieran Houlston, nephew of Springbok legend James Small, in an excellent game at flyhalf, with a personal tally of 20 points for the match, including two excellent tries, which is sure to ruffle more than just a few feathers at provincial trials later in the season.

Saints won the 2nd team match comfortably, whilst St. John’s looked good for their win in the main match of the day. Had it been the case where St. John takes their points through penalty kicks when they had a realistic chance at making them count, the score could have been higher.

Saints drew first blood through a penalty kick by flyhalf Keagan Lailvaux, who ended a solid goal-kicking performance with 4 successful penalties for a personal contribution of 12 points.

Although Saints did not lose a scrum their ball was not of a high quality as they seemingly battled at the tighthead side from the first scrum and when St. John’s were awarded a free kick early in the match and elected to set a scrum instead, it was clear that they were not intimidated by the larger pack of Saints, and they held their own in this department, apart from for the very last scrum when they conceded a penalty to Saints. The scrums were a 50/50 platform of little significance in the match other than perhaps the St. John’s #9 Ronan Groblergetting better ball to work with.In the scrums, St. Johns loosehead prop Damien Henwood, returning from illness, punched well above his weight against Asenathi Ntlabakanye and hats off to him for a good effort.
The kicking game saw a lot of balls aimlessly kicked away. No less than 6 poor kicks resulted in the opposition getting the ball, notably 4 of the kicking errors on the side of Saints.

The lineouts were of a high standard with each team making sure they get their own. Saints only lost one lineout whilst St. John’s had a clean sheet in this department. The number of lineouts was high at 15 in the first half though. One such lineout led to the first try of the match as St. John’s mauled it over the try line.

The game on the ground was a physical contest, with Saints being off slightly better initially, turning over the St. John’s ball on 4 occasions whilst only losing one of their own, but the discipline at ruck time cost Saints dearly. Saints were penalised no less than 10 times for infringements at ruck time. St. John’s #6 Phillip Mparutsa and #8 Julian Zille were the best forwards on the bay, Zille also rewarded with the first try from a maul, whilst for Saints replacement hooker Nicolas Brimacombe stood out for his team.
Initially, Saints looked just a bit sharper with the ball in hand, and St. John’s seemed to lack the ability to break the Saints defence. From a spectacle point of view, this was not a great match, with notable carries few and far between.

This created a bit of possession ping-pong early on in the match, without anyone able to really break the lines, the match bordered on becoming a bore, until Mr Houlston took it upon himself and with one break from a lineout close to the Saints line opened a whole can of worms on the Saint’s defence and turned the match on its head as he dotted down under the posts to give St. John’s a halftime lead of 12-6.

The best ball carrier of the match was Houlston with 3 carries gaining 57 metres (and 2 tries), supported well on attack by winger Garrick Stead, whilst for Saints inside centre Okhela Mbadamana looked dangerous with one carry close to 50 metres, followed by a sharp looking Reece Biehler at wing, who looked like he perhaps need more ball to work with. Credit to the St. John’s defence as they refused to let Saints get over the advantage line in their red zone. Here outside centre and head boy, Tshepo Chipu was very good, contesting balls like a loose forward.

Saints missed an early second-half penalty attempt, but succeeded with another and trailing by only 3, at 9-12 looked set to make a comeback, but then Houlston scored his second converted try and Saints answered by scoring a try in the corner by winger Shane Lindsay. Deep into the second half Saints were only trailing by 2 points with the scores at 17-19, and although St. John’s had much of the possession at this stage, their lack of punch in the midfield almost cost them the match, but Houlston made the best of the pressure-forced ruck time penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over enough the record a 25-17 victory.This is an area the St. John’s coaching staff would have identified as requiring improvement.

Considering the outcome of both the 2nd XV and 1stXV matches perhaps Saints will want to look into performances of some individual players. Star prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye looks nowhere near the player he was in previous seasons, finding it difficult at scrum time and seemingly carrying way too much bulk to get him across the field effectively for those characteristic cross-defence tackles of his. Clearly, a crowd favourite, and impressive when smashing into an opponent half his size, he will know that much more will be expected of him later on in the season at higher levels of competition if he hopes to make the SA Schools team at the end of the year. For the second team, two players stood out and warrant consideration for the future. They are loose forward Etienne Faasen and #2 Nicolas Brimacombe.

Both teams will now set their sights on their not-to-be-missed Easter rugby festivals.

St. Stithians will face Graeme College on Thursday at 13:30 in Randburg.

St. John’s will face Florida at 19:15 in Houghton in their respective festivals.