Mallett penalty seals draw for UCT

FNB Varsity Cup

An injury-time penalty by Ikeys replacement Doug Mallett earned his side a 30-30 draw against FNB Shimlas in the opening match of the 2010 Varsity Cup in Port Elizabeth on Monday. 

An injury-time penalty by Doug Mallett - the son of former Springbok coach Nick Mallett - earned FNB UCT a 30-30 draw against a fired-up FNB Shimlas team in the opening match of the 2010 Varsity Cup in Port Elizabeth on Monday.

Twice coming back - first from 13-25 down and then 20-30 down - it was two vital Mallett kicks that secured the Ikey Tigers a draw to get the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International off to a rocking good start.

Young Mallett, coming on as a late second-half replacement, looked far more secure in the blustery PE wind than Varsity Cup veteran Matt Rosslee and gave his team the direction they seemingly lacked in the first hour.

In a game that produced some solid and spirited defence by Shimlas, to go with some typically enterprising running from the Cape students, the slogan of 'Rugby that Rocks' once again proved to be true.

It was by no means flawless from either team, but it has certainly laid down a decent marker for the rest of the 2010 Varsity Cup.

Shimlas, with the strong wind at their backs, had the better of the first half.

The Ikeys tried to play ball in hand rugby in the first 40 minutes, as kicking was not really an option, but their handling often let them down. It must be added that Shimlas did not always make good use of the wind either. They would have liked more than just an eight-point lead at the break.

The Ikeys were also their own worst enemies - they were penalised more often at the breakdown and struggled to come to terms with the referee's interpretation of the breakdown law, while Shimlas were getting to the breakdown in greater numbers. Then, to add to their woes, Ikeys also conceded a couple of heels against the head in first-half scrums and their lineouts were not as clinical as you would have expected.

After initially getting some success with their kick-and-chase game in the second half, UCT's backs wasted far too much good ball with aimless kicking.

And the Bloemfontein team made use of the free possession handed to them to relieve the pressure. And they continued to dominate at the breakdown, where they contested with far greater energy than their opponents. Another problem for the Cape Town students was their at times porous midfield defence, which forced them to scramble as Shimlas threatened to run rampant at times.

However, the Cape Town students produced a late burst when they looked dead and buried and were good value for the draw.

Shimlas had the first scoring opportunity, a penalty in the second minute, which fullback George Whitehead slotted for an early 3-0 lead. The high penalty count, a feature of all rugby so far this year, continued unabated and in the sixth minute Whitehead made it 6-0.

The Ikeys finally opened their scoring in the 10th minute, also a penalty at the breakdown, which flyhalf Matt Rosslee slotted with ease.

However, Shimlas quickly launched another series of raids on the UCT line and two minutes later wing Divandré Strydom crossed for the opening try of the game - a score created by the hard work of the forwards clearing out the rucks with great efficiency. The conversion was wide, but at 11-3 Shimlas were good value for their lead.

It would be another 10 minutes before either team had a clear-cut scoring chance - with Rosslee pushing his penalty attempt well wide in the blustering wind.

The selfsame Rosslee managed to narrow the gap to 6-11 in the 27th minute, slotting his second penalty, but three minutes later Whitehead stretched it back to eight points with yet another penalty 14-6 - which is how it stayed till half-time.

The Ikeys made their intentions clear from the restart and a couple of well-placed kicks, which the Shimlas had trouble in dealing with, set up the Cape Students' first try - with centre Marcel Brache bursting over in the 42nd minute. Rosslee added the extras to narrow the gap to just one point.

However, another botched lineout by the Ikeys handed the ball to Shimlas flank Hanno Pieterse, who exploited some very ordinary defence to score a 50-metre runaway try. The conversion was wide, but at 19-13 the Free State students could breathe again.

Whitehead, despite having failed with both conversion attempts, continued piling on the points as he landed his fourth penalty in the 53rd minute - handing Shimlas a 22-13 lead. At the same time Rosslee's erratic kicking saw him push another attempt at goal well wide.

And when Whitehead slotted his fifth penalty it left UCT with an enormous mountain to climb, at 25-13, as the game moved into the final quarter, and they certainly did not do themselves any favours with some very poor option-taking.

However, the Ikeys managed to pull a try back in the 68th minute, scored by replacement centre Sean van Tonder and set up by some great deceptive running from winger Marcello Sampson. Replacement Mallett added the conversion and at 20-25 it was game on.

Shimlas got a lucky break when a poor pass in their 22 went to ground and was hacked ahead. Divandré Strydom used his pace to outstrip the cover, hacked ahead again and collected a favourable bounce for an easy score. The conversion was wide and it left the Ikeys with a 10-point gap with time running out.

But then the Cape Town students also got a lucky bounce Sampson kicked ahead, collected and scored after a sloppy Shimlas pass, and Mallett's conversion narrowed it to just a three-point game - 27-30.

The Ikeys pushed hard and with time officially up on the clock, forced a penalty inside the Shimlas 22 which Mallett slotted to earn his team a draw - their best result in a Varsity Cup opener, having lost their opening games in 2008 (to the Pukke) and 2009 (to the Maties).

The scorers:

For FNB Shimlas:
Tries:
 Strydom 2, Pieterse
Pens: Whitehead 5

For FNB UCT:
Tries:
 Brache, Van Tonder, Sampson
Cons: Rosslee, Mallett 2
Pens: Rosslee 2, Mallett

The teams:

Shimlas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Divandré Strydom, 13 Earl Snyman, 12 Wayne Stevens (captain), 11 Rashied Isaacs, 10 Reinhardt Erwee, 9 Jaco Colyn, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Hanno Pieterse, 5 Henjo van Niekerk, 4 Joubert Horn, 3 Vaatjie Koorsen, 2 PW van Vuuren, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Gert Erasmus, 17 Ian Potgieter, 18 Lebo Zietsman, 19 Pieter Labuschagné, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Beast Ndwandwa, 22 Johan van Schalkwyk, 23 James Hellawell.

UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Paul Cohen, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stu Commins (vice-captain), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Michael Morris, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 5 Martin Muller, 4 Don Armand, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Ash Wells.
Replacements: 16 Mark Goosen, 17 Chris Heidberg, 18 Yaya Hartzenberg, 19 Levi Odendaal, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Sean van Tonder, 22 Doug Mallett, 23 Wes Chetty.

Referee: Ben Crouse