It was a funny old game, UCT's Varsity Cup clash against the Madibas from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) on Monday, 21 February.
|The UCT-NMMU clash was also an emotional one as the sides were playing for the Monté Taljaard Floating Trophy, established in 2008 in honour of the late UCT player who hailed from Port Elizabeth. (UCT donned special shirts to mark the occasion.) UCT has now won the trophy all four years (2008-2011), and Taljaard's father, Sydney Taljaard, was on hand to present it to UCT captain, Nick Fenton-Wells.||Upside and over: Ricky Rijs touches down for UCT.|
For the first half, it was NMMU who made all the play, despite running into a strong headwind. Yet it was UCT Tigers, in their first home game, who kept the scoreboard ticking over - within 10 minutes they were 12-0 up, courtesy of four penalties from sure-footed flyhalf, Demetri Catrakilis. And when the Madibas narrowed the difference with a try (12-5), it appeared the team from Port Elizabeth was rallying.
But by half time UCT had touched down twice - through lock Eben Etzebeth and fullback Ricky Rijs - while Catrakilis added a conversion and a fourth penalty. That took UCT into the break comfortably 27-5 ahead.
Again, early in the second half, it was Nelson Mandela going on the offensive. But, again, it was UCT - now playing into the wind - who did the scoring.
And following a try by prop Francois van Wyk (32-5), the floodgates opened as the Tigers broke down all NMMU resistance. Soon they had built up an insurmountable 49-5 lead, with tries by scrumhalf Nic Groom, centre Therlow Pietersen and flank Zandy Macdonald, with one conversion by Catrakilis.
NMMU finally crossed the UCT line for a second time, a late goal bringing the final score to 49-12 in UCT's favour.
It was the Tigers' discipline in defence that helped them see off the NMMU attack in the first half, observed the side's captain, Nick Fenton-Wells, after the match. And playing into the wind, as they did in the second half, is what the team likes best, he noted.
"It's not in UCT's DNA to kick the ball at all. We just want to look after the ball and play as much rugby as possible."
It's a motto that keeps the side at the top of the Varsity Cup log, now on 14 points, one clear of the University of Johannesburg (UJ). UCT also boasts a points-scored difference of 81, well ahead of third-placed Stellenbosch University's 32 and UJ's 19.
UCT's next game, to be televised, is at home again, against Tshwane University of Technology on 28 February at 17h00.
Try scorer Groom, who turned 21 on the day (yes, his crown birthday), was named as the Player that Rocks, aka, Man of the Match, and will don the pink shorts - a reminder of Varsity Cup's campaign against violence against women - in that match.
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