By CHESLEY DANIELS
Kowie United 1st XV threw the first punch in the first of two rounds in the EPRU SEDRU Regional League Competition Ndlambe Derby with a bonus point 27-10 win over Ndlambe Tigers at the Station Hill Sports Ground on Saturday afternoon. The first half saw Kowie lead 15-5 at the break.
Kowie United drew first blood in this much anticipated Ndlambe/Port Alfred Derby and the bragging rights. Kowie also beat Tigers twice in their preseason friendly fixtures before the season.
United moved to second on the overall log standings with the win behind Klipfontein.
Saturday afternoon saw thousands of spectators gearing up for this much-anticipated Derby, which never disappoints. The atmosphere was just outstanding, and a brilliant day of rugby was delivered. The contest was played in an excellent spirit from both sides, and rugby was indeed the winner.
It was apparent that the bigger Tigers forwards would dominate, but they were surprised at the end of the day. Both sides started the game with great intensity and physicality and confronted each other head-on with an in-your-face approach.
Kowie scored the first points in the fourth minute of the first half after prop forward Wayde Lax found the defence sleeping with a pick-up-and-go try next to the post. Mason Brooks (fullback) converted as Kowie took an early 7-0 lead.
Kowie continued to put pressure on Tigers and were very effective at the breakdowns, ensuring numerous turnovers that resulted in Brooks slotting a penalty. Kowie 10-0. Tigers captain and eighth man Roger Faku was instrumental with the ball in hand on attack and kept his side on the front foot. This resulted in their first try by prop Ace Sineli who dived over in the 31st minute. When Tigers were a man down, Kowie capitalised when scrumhalf Tandolwethu Ntontela made use of the overlap to score at the stroke of halftime. Kowie went into the break with a 15-5 lead.
Kowie came out guns blazing in the second half with more intensity with a bonus point in mind. They wasted no time when they scored their third try in the second minute of the second half in the form of winger Johnny Hilpert. Flyhalf Gareth Smith steps forward to covert as United went 22-5 upfront.
Both teams started to ring the changes, and the game became even more physical. Tigers looked impressive with the ball in hand and started to put United under pressure. United began to make mistakes in their over-eagerness for that all-important bonus-point try. They eventually broke the defences of Tigers, who were solid, when winger Johnny Hilpert scored his second of the day in the right-hand corner.
Tigers refused to give up, and the substitutes proved a handful with ball in hand. United’s defences stood firm and smoked them at the breakdowns, where they were so dangerous all day. Ace Sinela scored his second try for Tigers in the 33rd minute, but the fat was already in the fire.
United ended deserved 27-10 winners after 83 minutes and claimed Bragging Rights of Port Alfred, but Rugby was indeed the winner on the day.
Kowie assistant coach Kirt Wessels said the Derby was played in a good spirit. “The atmosphere was just unbelievable, and the local support was fantastic. We expected better from Tigers, especially up front, where we managed to dominate them. I am happy with our dominance at the breakdowns, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s now back to the drawing board for our next mission, which is against Rosebuds in Alicedale this coming weekend,” Wessels said.
Kowie United flyhalf Gareth Smith earned the Grocott’s Mail Man of the Match award for his all-round brilliance. Smith was outstanding and played a pivotal role in steering his backline. He was the driving force at the back and controlled his troops brilliantly – he was solid on defence and had an eye for a gap.