Michaelhouse Kicks Off Rugby Season
St Charles College of Pietermaritzburg played hosts to Michaelhouse and Clifton College on a blisteringly hot day to kick off the winter sports programme for all three schools on Saturday.
Seventeen Michaelhouse rugby teams met with opposition from St Charles and Clifton Colleges, most of which were staggered fixtures proving a bridge too far for many of the lower Michaelhouse teams on their first weekend of full contact rugby.
Michaelhouse have battled to contain St Charles in the age groups for the past two years, but Saturday’s results dislodged that monkey. U14A coaches Xabiso Bika and Dean Forword fielded a Michaelhouse side who gelled quickly to cement a solid 19-0 win despite the game being reduced to uncontested scrums by the second half. Clifton’s U14A team were too strong for the House B side, cantering to an easy 26-0 win. The arm wrestle in the C team encounter ended in a 14-12 win for St Charles.
Much anticipation heralded the U15A teams jogging onto the park. Their 12-12 result in U14 had set the scene for one of the sides to take the initiative and break the deadlock. Michaelhouse were quick out of the blocks but were only just able to stave off a final quarter resurgence from Saints to hang on for a 17-14 win. The stagger again proved too much for House’s lower teams as the Clifton U15A side romped to a comfortable 47-7 win over the Michaelhouse U15Bs. The C side struggled in their 0-52 loss to a much stronger St Charles U15B unit.
Michaelhouse’s U16A coaches Sam Mofokeng and Paul McKay had their work cut out to marshal their troops mentally ahead of their fixture. Heavy defeats against St Charles in U15 (7-22) and U14 (7-31) would have been weighing heavily on their minds. Discipline learned during strenuous pre-season conditioning quite literally carried the team through the crucible that was St Charles at midday on Saturday, as a team growing in stature and character stamped their authority on every aspect of their 26-7 win. Yet again, the staggered fixtures proved too much with only the U16B team’s 17-24 loss to Clifton’s A side hinting at parity.
In the open age groups, only the seventh and fifth XV results suggested serious mismatches with both sides going down heavily to St Charles fourth and third XVs respectively. Michaelhouse’s sixths held their own in a thrilling 31-31 clash with Clifton’s third XV, while the fourths were able to dominate Clifton’s seconds in their comfortable 36-10 win. Michaelhouse’s thirds edged to the narrowest of wins, 15-14, over St Charles’ second team, while Clifton’s first XV hung on to their 26-24 win over Michaelhouse’s Second XV.
St Charles would have been keen to record their first win over the Boys from Balgowan since 1960. Anyone who might have been wondering whether it could get any hotter in Scottsville had their musings put to rest as the two first teams charged onto Old Orchards for the final fixture of the day. 2018 Academy Week centre, Thami Zakwe, broke the early deadlock as he crashed over for an unconverted try. St Charles struck back with some direct play, exploiting a chink in Michaelhouse’s defence to take the lead for the only time on the day. Pre-season conditioning again paid dividends as the visitors were able to cross the line two more times during the first half with unconverted tries by Grade 11 wing Mark Grant and flyhalf Luc Pousson. Despite some early indications of robust interplay between backs and forwards, along with enterprising three quarter play, one still got the sense that Michaelhouse were not firing on all cylinders and may solid gold scoring opportunities left a number of points out on the field in the first half. Nevertheless, Michaelhouse demonstrated an appetite for turning heavy pressure into attacking opportunities, using offense as an effective means of defence on a number of occasions.
Flyhalf Luc Pousson confirmed his man of the match performance when he soaked up pressure from a scrum under his own poles to cut the advantage line and put flyer Mark Grant away for his second try on debut. Hooker Jamie Deeble’s try from a driving lineout closed Michaelhouse’s account for a comfortable, if not yet confident, 27-7 win.
From Murray Witherspoon of Michaelhouse