Unconvincing hosts Paarl Gim managed to pip HTS Drostdy 26-24 thanks to a Handré Pollard penalty right on the final whistle on a chilly but cloudless Saturday morning.
Starting off in a positive mood, with No.8 Michael Murphy featuring prominently in several moves, none of which could pierce the resolute Drostdy defence, Gim had to be content with a penalty by flyhalf Handré Pollard after eleven minutes.
Inexplicably the hosts relaxed ever so slightly and looked set to pay the price when Donkeys fullback Iewan Bartels scythed through their midfield, shortly after which clumsiness at a defensive line-out almost cost them a try. Drostdy pivot Michael de Boer did, however, put the visitors level for a few minutes before Pollard notched his second penalty. Gim 6 Drostdy 3.
As the Worcester outfit grew in confidence, so their forays into Gim territory became more penetrative and five minutes from the break No.8 Isak Burger eventually crossed the line after yet another midfield break. De Boer converted to put his side up 10-6.
The lead did not, however, last long as lanky Western Province Craven Week lock Clyde Davids popped up to collect a long skip-pass just inside the left wing, of all places, and dive over spectacularly. Pollard’s conversion heralded half-time with Gim 13-10 ahead.
Fifteen minutes after the change-over the Donkeys took a deserved 17-13 lead when inside centre Roelof du Toit scored the try of the match, exploiting hesitancy in the Gim defence to double around on the right flank and cross untouched, de Boer slotting the angled conversion.
Once again this try shook Gim out of their apparently blissful comfort zone. The umpteenth decision to set up an attacking line-out rather than go for posts finally paid dividends as the ball was quickly shifted out to left wing Danny de Wet, a slightly-built youngster, who showed surprising upper-body strength to force his way over in the corner. Pollard’s conversion plus a penalty seven minutes later gave Gim a 23-17 advantage.
The closer the final whistle loomed, the more concerted the Drostdy efforts became and they appeared to have clinched the match when a delayed put-in at a scrum five metres out resulted in their being awarded a free-kick. The ball was spun wide to the right where flank Pierre Kloppers got the crucial touchdown. De Boer’s conversion had the visiting supporters out of their seats as the Donkeys now led 24-23.
Well, you read about happened next at the start of this report, right? Not entirely. Realising – one only hopes – that they had a penalty advantage, Gim swung the ball out to the left at a speed that had been missing just about all game, only for the wild last pass to bounce harmlessly between the only players with a realistic chance of receiving it, two tight forwards, and into touch! No sweat – penalty – Pollard – phew! Gim were understandably ecstatic; Drostdy were simply gobsmacked.
Gim seemed to lack any game-plan throughout, meaning they had to play reactive rather than proactive rugby, mostly by capitalizing on the Donkeys’ obligingly endlessly repetitive errors in the loose. At the risk of singling out any area, the Paarl side looked downright fragile in midfield, at least on those occasions on which Pollard chose not to try one of his telegraphed skip-passes.
Simply put. Gim were flat. Well, now it’s all hands to the pumps as Saturday’s überclash looms large. Let’s hope they sort themselves out rather than having Boishaai do it for them!
An extraordinary affair, which, had there been a bit of poetic justice, Drostdy would have won tidily.
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