Gym Put The Squeeze On Bishops

“Not this time, lads !”  Elusive Paarl Gym right wing Curwin Gertse evades the clutches of two
tacklers in his side’s emphatic 41-12 win over Hartpury College on Friday 29 March 2019 at the
World Schools Festival in Stellenbosch.  (photo: Franna “Smiley” Lombard)

The local schools' rugby season got underway in bright autumn sunshine on Saturday 6 April 2019, with the crowds turning out in numbers to support their teams.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the Piley Rees field where Bishops fought gallantly but in vain against a very clinical Paarl Gym outfit, losing 10-31.

Many of the home supporters were hoping that the Platinum Blues could reprise the form they showed on their recent tour of Ireland, but, although the scores were fairly close for a short period during the second half, they were destined to go home slightly disappointed.

The result notwithstanding, the slightly overshadowed hosts threw everything they had at the northern Paarl visitors, but just couldn’t match them for sheer relentlessness, eventually buckling under to concede two tries in the closing stages of an engrossing match.

Gym was penalised for tackling the catcher in the air at the kick-off, allowing home flyhalf Sacha Mngomezulu to gain a fine touch.  Visiting lock Reynhardt Crous relieved the immediate pressure with a storming run, but the locals’ ferocious tackling prevented him from making much headway.

In turn, Bishops hooker Keagan Blanckenberg drove upfield, but lost the ball in a bone-jarring tackle, giving Gym pivot Johan Smal the opportunity to relieve the threat, but the home team were able to set up an attacking line-out eight metres from Gym’s’ line when the visitors transgressed at a ruck.

Attack quickly became defence as Gym stole the line-out possession, allowing Smal to gain forty metres with a fine kick.  Crous was prominent again, but it looked like his side’s good work was going to be undone when Bishops looted a ruck.  However, Mngomezulu’s clearance was partially charged down, opening the door for a rapier-like Gym attack.

The ball moved quickly to the left, the final pass from outside centre Ethan James releasing pacy right wing Curwin Gertse, who dotted down in the corner, despite being tackled just short of the line. (Bishops 0 Paarl Gym 5 - 13 minutes)

With confidence pounding in their veins, it wasn’t long before Gym increased their lead, thanks to an immaculately-placed chip over the flat defence by Smal, James taking the final pass to cross the line wide on the right. (Bishops 0 Paarl Gym 10 - 17 minutes)

The frustration among the Platinum Blues was almost tangible as they struggled to make any headway, several ruck infringements being punished mercilessly by Gym full-back Tiaan Swanepoel.  Mngomezulu did bring a measure of relief, but it took offside play by the visitors to keep Bishops on relatively even terms.

A penalty let Bishops out of jail after their backline was guilty of over-elaboration.  A spell of aerial ping-pong ensued until the hosts conceded two penalties in quick succession.  Swanepoel put his team right on the attack and it was Man of the Match Crous who emerged from a melee on the line with the ball.  Swanepoel converted, after which the half-time whistle sounded. Half-time: Bishops 0 Paarl Gym 17.

Home supporters were finally given something to cheer about when Gym was penalised 34 metres out in the middle of the field, Mngomezulu slotting the penalty.  (Bishops 3 Paarl Gym 17 - 37 minutes)

The Platinum Blues attacked from the restart, setting up a line-out ten metres from the Gym line, and were rewarded when a lovely chip over the advancing defence bounced favourably for inside centre Michael Ford to gather and dive over.  Mngomezulu’s conversion brought his side within seven points of the visitors. (Bishops 10 Paarl Gym 17 - 42 minutes)

The home pack were driving with menace but conceded a penalty at a crucial juncture from which Swanepoel drove them back thirty metres.  Bishops soon had the chance to atone for their error and built up some momentum, only for a speculative kick ahead to be easily dotted down behind the Gym tryline.

Ironically, it was from a Bishop's line-out gone awry that Gym scored their third try, the backline breaking to the right for flyhalf Smal to score virtually untouched.  Swanepoel converted. (Bishops 10 Paarl Gym 24 - 55 minutes)

Wesley Chetty’s side was digging deep, preventing their opponents from establishing a concerted attacking platform and things looked to be turning in Bishops’ favour when Gym lost a player to a yellow card for a high tackle.

The hosts unfortunately squandered their opportunity, allowing Gym to take the play to their 22.  From the ensuing ruck flank, Pierich Siebert was on hand to force his way over for the final try of the match, converted by Swanepoel. (Bishops 10 Paarl Gym 31 - 63 minutes).

Try as they might - and they most certainly did - the Rondebosch side couldn’t breach the Gym defensive rampart, although scrumhalf Liam Kloosman might consider himself unlucky not to have been able to collect his own chip through in the last minute.  Final score: Bishops 10 Paarl Gym 31.

Gym, as always, were full value for their win as they gradually wore down the Bishops team’s resistance.  The backs were penetrative, but only when the tigerish Platinum Blue defence - in which no.8 Isaiah Wharton was prominent throughout - allowed it.

The locals can take a great deal of pride from their performance.  They never allowed their much-vaunted opponents a chance to settle into their pattern, their tackling at times bordering on the suicidal.

They may not beat the Winelands teams, but the omens are good for the southern suburbs crown.

A word of praise for Don Murray, the groundsman, who once again provided a billiard table surface that encouraged both sides to express themselves with the kind of confidence one expects from two top schoolboy sides.

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