This event can become a major attraction
The KwaZulu Natal Rugby Union held its first schools day at Kings Park on Wednesday, the Top Schools Rugby Festival, with 10 schools taking part.
Run on the same lines as the Western Province Schools Day has been run, there were five matches of 40 minutes each.
Port Natal vs Pionier, 17-14
George Campbell vs Clifton, 8-3
Northwood vs DHS, 8-3
Kearsney vs Westville, 17-5
Glenwood vs Maritzburg College, 19-0
The opening match was between Port Natal and Pionier of Vryheid. The Port Natal lock Eugene du Preez scored the opening try of the tournament and together with the conversion and a penalty just before half-time, his team led 10-0 in the first 20-minute half.
Pionier scored the opening try of the second half, converted from directly in front of the posts to get right back into the game, but almost directly from the kick-off, Port Natal struck back, scoring in the corner. The excellent touchline conversion from scrumhalf Hennie Janse van Rensburg pushed his team well into the lead, but both sides had their tails up and Pioneer captain and eighthman Francois de Klerk scored in the opposite corner. He then converted his own try from the touchline to set up a thrilling climax. Pioneer were pulled up 5m short from a try that would have handed them the victory. In the end, Port Natal held out for a 17-14 victory.
In the second match featuring Clifton College and George Campbell, the two teams really got stuck into each other with Clifton opening the scoring through the boot of flank Keegan Nell. Fullback Willie Spies replied for George Campbell. Captain Marco de Souza went on a 40m solo run, handing off players en-route to the only try of the match, a wonderful solo effort. Clifton College pushed hard at the end but couldn't finish, going down 8-3. Despite the low-scoring affair, it was an exceedingly entertaining match from two committed sides who delivered a great spectacle of rugby.
Northwood opened the scoring in their match against DHS in the third clash of the evening with a well-struck, long-range penalty after DHS had missed a gilt-edged opportunity, losing the ball forward in the act of dotting down what would have been a valuable try early in the match. Northwood added a try in the second half to push them into an 8-nil lead despite the best efforts of DHS who pushed hard to strike back. They did just that with a penalty to reduce the gap to five points and hammered away at the Northwood line for the final few minutes of the game, but despite being a man down, Northwood clung on desperately to hold out for the win.
In the penultimate game between Westville Boys' High and Kearsney College, it was Kearsney who struck first, Thuthu Ndlovu twisting in the tackle to force his way over the try-line. They didn't take long to score their second, fullback Chris Lines finishing off after some excellent offloading in the tackle from the forwards. Westville responded well with a try in the corner going into the final five minutes of the half but it didn't take Kearsney, with their one man advantage after Westville lost a man to a yellow card, to score the first try of the second half, the forwards shoving Biaggio Pelliccia over in the corner to take a 17-5 lead and that was how the scoreboard remained.
Finally, it was the turn of Glenwood High School, who had played in the curtain-raiser to The Sharks-Stormers match on the weekend, taking on Maritzburg College. Glenwood pushed early and were rewarded when Sphamandla Ngcobo finished off a move well-orchestrated by fullback Morné Joubert who did the hard yards to get his wing in for the try. They added another moments later to pull further ahead, but the second quarter was a period punctuated by plenty of effort but little reward and no further points were scored in the half. Both sides battled to build continuity before Glenwood’s Robert Peacock managed to burst through the defence at close-quarters to score his team’s third try. Glenwood came excruciatingly close a couple of times as the game neared its end and had to be content with a 19-nil victory.
KZNRU CEO Pete Smith said: “We thank the schools who have bought into the concept and must offer a special thanks for the co-operation received in this first year where both parties are finding their way. There is no doubt that this event can become a major attraction on our provinces rugby calendar.
“To stage an event like this requires some financial support and the KZNRU is appreciative of the fact that at short notice McCarthy Toyota – long standing supporters of rugby in this province – agreed to come on board as sponsors. Our thanks must also go to Fidelity Security, Ricallen Bus Service, The Sharks Academy and Sharksmart who have all been supportive.”