St Alban’s College produced a mighty second-half effort to beat St Stithians 34-24 in a nine-try thriller at Stithians on Saturday. THEO GARRUN reports.
St Stithians were on fire in the opening minutes, scoring three quick tries to go 17-0 up. While St Alban’s got their first try just before half-time, Saints were 17-5 ahead and looked the likely winners.
St Alban’s scored again four minutes into the second half and, as their bigger forwards began to take control, they chipped away at the lead and drew ahead at the end of the third quarter and never looked back after that.
Saints were outgunned up front, but their tactic of spreading the ball wide and moving the St Alban’s pack around worked well in that opening period. They sped up play by turning every penalty they got into a quickly-taken tap kick and their backs ran straight and hard.
Centre Manashe Chattezwi was first to score, after seven minutes, with flyhalf Deon Fourie weaving his way through the defence just two minutes later. Wing Bradley Cooper got the third, off a full backline move.
St Alban’s wing Keelan Watkins got their first touchdown just before half-time to keep his side in the game.
Saints fluffed the kick-off and Luyanda Mpafa scored in the first minute of the second half.
It was all St Alban’s from then on. The Saints pack tired notably and suffered several injuries. Their handling let them down on a few occasions and they battled to get their hands on the ball.
The St Alban’s forwards kept it close. They drove well and mauled effectively. They also began to dominate the scrums and lineouts.
The result was four unanswered tries in half an hour. Following Mfapa’s early touchdown, prop Sbewu Fipaza found himself out on the wing for the second, the very impressive flanker Siseko Mvenya got the third and the fourth was Keelan Watkins’ second.
Flyhalf Thabang Mogadima converted three of the tries and rounded off the scoring with a penalty. Saints got an injury-time consolation try when flank Ronin van der Westhuizen broke through on the halfway line and ran 50m to score.
It was the last game of the season for both schools, apart from next weekend’s Independent Schools Festival. Both schools will be sending ‘stayers’ teams to that event.
It’s been St Alban’s most successful season for many years. They lost just three out of the 16 games played – to Jeppe, St Charles and Pretoria Boys’ High.
St Alban’s – Tries: Uyanda Mpafa, Sbewu Fipaza, Siseka Mbenya, Keelan Watkins (2). Conversions: Thabang Mogadima (3). Penalty: Mogadima.
St Stithians – Tries: Manashe Chaitezwi, Deon Fourie, Bradley Cooper, Ronin van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Fourie, Jean Pierre Bloem.
Photo: Theo Garrun