14 August 2018 Read: 382
On Saturday, the junior Merensky rugby boys faced the toughest match of their season as they clashed with the Piet Retief u/14’s at Plasiepark for a place in the Virseker Beker semi-finals. They could not have anticipated that it would be their final game for the season when they stepped onto the damp pitch that morning.
From the start, it was clear that the visiting Piet Retief did not make the long trip up North to lose, and they quickly opened their account with three beautifully converted tries in the opening stages of the first half. The Plasies seemed flustered at the sheer pace of the Retief backline, but soon gathered themselves and started clawing back into the game. At halftime it was feared that the hosts may be dishing up a little too late when they entered the locker rooms 5-17 down.
The performance of the Merensky Blues as they entered the second half was testament to the impact of a coach talk at the break. The team that took to the field were almost unrecognizable as they launched one counter attack after the other. Being witness to such a high level of decent running rugby was an honour for this journalist who at times found it hard to contain his joy as try after try sent the Plasies into the eventual lead.
One of the fastest, Tony Watson inspired, runs down the side line seen in a recent local matches resulted in two beautiful tries by the former Laerskool Tzaneen conscript, Janco Grobler. It was art, and the spectators lapped up every moment of it.
With 15 minutes on the clock the Plasies were leading by 24-17 and Piet Retief were rattled. Their backline seemed fatigued from the relentless defending it had to endure. But it appeared to be a ruse as soon they managed to send a converted try to the scoreboard leaving both teams tied on 24 points as the game headed into its final minute.
The Piet Retief fly half missed an insanely straight forward attempt at goal just metres from the goal posts and the game seemed lost for them. But fate had another agenda. With literally seconds on the clock, the Piet Retief fullback sent a wayward kick into the Plasie backline. It was returned with an up-and-under which was meant to reach the grass on the outside of the farthest boundary line but instead found the hands of a visiting wing who eagerly crashed over the try line to clinch a 24-29 victory for Piet Retief in the dying seconds.
Though dismayed at their narrow defeat, this reporter feels that it should be remembered that the boys who faced off on that pitch that morning, were still very young and inexperienced. The pressures of big games and the euphoria of the moment are both known nerve slayers. The merciless duo will eventually be conquered by the player’s experience as the mature into their positions and their careers. Be that as it may, the Merensky boys had a cracker of a season and one that acts as the harbinger to a very promising u/15 team when they next take to the pitch in 2019.