Defending Cell C Community Cup champions Rustenburg Impala on Thursday kept alive hopes of winning back-to-back titles with a last-gasp penalty to book their place in the semifinals with Hamiltons, Durbanville-Bellville and GAP Management Despatch at the Impala Rugby Club in Rustenburg.
The first day’s play was tightly contested as the teams gave everything to book a place in the semifinals on Saturday for a chance to win the title and the historic Gold Cup.
Hosts Rustenburg Impala defeated Pretoria Police 30-28 in a nailbiting match to close the opening day’s play in front of a passionate home crowd, while Hamiltons beat Wesbank 34-26 in the opening match.
Durbell, meanwhile, edged Jonsson College Rovers 30-25 and GAP Management Despatch defeated Vaseline Wanderers 25-14.
Unfortunately for Wesbank and Jonsson College Rovers missed opportunities cost them, while Hamiltons and Durbell did well to soak up the pressure applied by the opposition and capitalised on their chances.
GAP Management Despatch and Rustenburg Impala, meanwhile, had to work hard for their victories as Vaseline Wanderers and Pretoria Police put their bodies on the line, but the latter’s determined efforts were not enough to push them ahead on the scoreboard.
Hamiltons 34 (10) Wesbank 26 (15)
Hamiltons stamped their authority early on against Wesbank as their pack dominated up-front, which allowed them to cross the tryline in the fourth minute thanks to No 8 Jody Burch for a 7-0 lead.
Wesbank wing Ronnie Appolis hit back minutes later after receiving a solid pass in space and he used his pace to tip-toe his way around the defence. With both tries converted the scores were level at 7-7.
Hamilton’s flyhalf Monty Dumond extended their lead to 10-7 minutes later thanks to a penalty.
This lead was cancelled out by Wesbank scrumhalf Dashton Wellman, who slotted over a penalty in the 28th minute, which was followed up by a try by his teammate Chrislyn van Schalkwyk for a 15-0 halftime lead.
Hamiltons came out firing in the second half and scored two tries in the first seven minutes compliments of Earl Lewis and Francois Esterhuyzen, which pushed them into a 25-15 lead.
Wesbank replied with a penalty in the 53rd minute which they backed up with a fantastic try by fullback Anvon Davids, who collected his own grubber, but an unsuccessful conversion left them trailing 25-23.
The final quarter, however, was dominated by Hamiltons who slotted over three penalties to only one by Wesbank, which sealed the 34-26 victory for the Cape side.
Hamiltons 34 (10) : Tries - Earl Lewis, Francois Esterhuyzen, Jody Burch. Conversions - Monty Dumond (2). Penalties - Monty Dumond (4), Shane Vallender.
Wesbank 26 (15) : Tries - Anvon Davids, Chrislyn van Schalkwyk, Ronnie Appolis. Conversions - Dashton Wellman. Penalties - Dashton Wellman (3).
Durbanville-Bellville 30 (17) Jonsson College Rovers 25 (11)
The clash between Jonsson College Rovers and Durbanville Bellville also got off to a tight start as each team scored a try in the first 10 minutes, but a successful conversion by Durbell earned them a 7-5 lead.
Rovers captain Chris Micklewood slotted over a penalty minutes later to take a narrow 8-7 lead. This, however, was short-lived as Durbell flank Marius White received the ball in front of the try-line after his teammates drew the defence out wide to score their second try of the match, which Raymond Olivier converted to push their tally to 14 points.
The Cape side added a penalty minutes later to extend their lead to nine points, but Micklewood closed the gap to 17-11 on the stroke of halftime with a handy penalty.
Durbell picked up in the second half where they left off as Olivier kicked another penalty and converted a try by Danwel Demas to stretch their lead to 27-11.
Rovers, however, bounced back with a try by TC Khoza, which Micklewood converted to close the gap. But a penalty by Durbell stretched their lead to 12 points. With the clock winding down Rovers chipped away at the Durbell defence and their efforts paid off in the 72nd minute as Micklewood crossed the tryline and converted his own try to close the gap to 30-25. But this was not enough to secure a victory as Durbell held on until the final whistle to shut them out.
Durbanville-Bellville 30 (17): Tries - Danwel Demas, Marius White, Marnus Hugo. Conversions - Raymond Olivier (3). Penalties - Raymond Olivier (3).
Jonsson College Rovers 25 (11): Tries - Chris Jordaan, Chris Micklewood, TC Khoza. Conversions - Chris Micklewood (2). Penalties: Chris Micklewood (2).
GAP Management Despatch 25 (13) Vaseline Wanderers 14 (14)
GAP Management Despatch got their clash against Vaseline Wanderers off to a firing start as left wing Selwyn Davids used his raw pace and fantastic skill to dance his way through the defence for a 5-0 lead in the 5th minute.
Vaseline Wanderers fought back after a few tight exchanges thanks to their forwards with flank Dylan Rutherford forcing his way over the try-line from a pick-and-drive, and with the successful conversion they took a 7-5 lead.
Despatch hooker Stephan Deyzel, however, crashed over the try-line in the 19th minute for their second try.
Wanderers were dealt a blow in the 22nd minute as Rutherford was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle, but despite this they managed to add to their score thanks to a try by scrumhalf Wesley Flanagan, who spotted a gap and dashed through to the try-line to hand the team a four-point lead.
Despatch flyhalf Francois Nel, however, closed the gap to 14-13 in the dying seconds of the first half with a penalty.
The second half was a hard grind as the teams threw everything at each other, but Despatch took advantage of their point-scoring chances, as they added two more tries to secure a 25-14 victory. They supported this with a solid defensive effort, which left Wanderers scoreless in the half.
GAP Management Despatch 25 (13): Tries - Francois Nel, Morné Labuschagne, Selvyn Davids, Stephan Deyzel. Conversions - Justin Peach. Penalties - Francois Nel.
Vaseline Wanderers 14 (14): Tries - Dylan Rutherford, Wesley Flanagan. Conversions - Craig Kolarik (2).
Rustenburg Impala vs Pretoria Police
Defending champions Rustenburg Impala stamped their authority in the first minute against Pretoria Police with a try by centre Aubrey McDonald who hung back on attack and gathered the ball in space.
This earned them a 5-0 lead. Pretoria Police hit back with a penalty, but a converted try by Rustenburg Impala right wing Morne Jooste who dashed up the right wing, forced the hosts into a 13-3 lead.
The teams were reduced to 14 players a side in the 13th minute as McDonald was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle, while Pretoria Police centre Heinrich Rademeyer received a yellow card for charging into a ruck.
Rustenburg Impala added a penalty to their score to build a seven-point lead going into the second quarter. Impala flyhalf Cecil Dumond added their third try in the 31st minute thanks to a dummy pass after receiving the ball out wide following several phases, which handed the hosts a 20-6 lead.
Pretoria Police, however, clawed their way back into the match with a late try by right wing Ruan van Loo to reduce their deficit to 20-13 at the break.
Pretoria Police built on this momentum early in the second half as wing Michael Nienaber scored another five-pointer, which allowed them to level the scores at 20-20. Rustenburg Impala strung together several phases in the following exchanges and earned the rewards as No8 Leon du Plessis crossed the try-line to edge them back into the lead. The final quarter was hard-fought as the teams refused to give an inch, and Pretoria Police scored a valuable penalty shortly before the final quarter to trail by only four points.
A yellow card for Pretoria Police scrumhalf Hendrik van der Nest for stamping on an opposition player’s hand at a ruck, however, reduced them to 14 men at a critical stage of the match. Rustenburg Impala almost sealed the victory with an intercept try five minutes from time, but a tip tackle by wing Dumisani Matyeshana resulted in the try being reversed and the player receiving a yellow card.
This bolstered Pretoria Police’s confidence and they scored a try with two minutes to go thanks to replacement back Elvis Noludwe, which nudged them ahead 28-27. A penalty on the stroke of fulltime by Impala’s Wilco De Wet, however, snatched a 30-28 victory at the death.
Rustenburg Impala 30 (20): Tries - Aubrey McDonald , Cecil Dumond, Leon du Plessis. Conversions - Morné Jooste, Willie Kok (2). Penalties - Cecil Dumond, Willie Kok (2).
Pretoria Police: 28 (13): Tries – Elvis Noludwe, Michael Nienaber, Ruan van Loo. Conversions – Dillon Laubscher (2). Penalties – Dillan Laubscher (3).
Cell C Community Cup Day 2 Fixtures (Saturday, 4 April):
10h00 – Vaseline Wanderers v Jonsson College Rovers
12h00 - Wesbank v Pretoria Police
14h00 - GAP Management Despatch v Durbell (semifinal)
16h00 - Hamiltons v Rustenburg Impala (semifinal)