By Chesley Daniels
The EPRU Grand Challenge Group A SEDRU derby match between Trying Stars 1st XV and Grahamstown Brumbies 1st XV went down to the wire on 17 June. Hosts Stars retained the bragging rights over arch-rivals Brumbies with a hard-fought, yet narrow 26-25 win in an epic, titanic, humdinger at the Wentzel Park Sports Ground in Alexandria. Matters were also very narrow at halftime as the home side led 15-13, with yet another indication of how close this competitive battle was.
The Clash of the Weekend once again never disappointed, as thousands of rugby enthusiasts from across the province stormed in to witness this highly anticipated traditional derby. The home side went into this encounter as the favourites, in second position on the overall log standings in Group A, having dominated the Makhanda side over the past few years. Brumbies are currently in third position, and should kick themselves for allowing this important match to get away from them, as their in-form forwards once again played their hearts out.
Brumbies’ forwards dominated the scrums from the kick-off, and put the home side under constant pressure in the first half. Stars were first to score against the run of play by their inspirational captain and hooker Jacques Maarman after continuous attacks. Lance King converted as the Stars took an early 7-0 lead.
Brumbies replied with two converted penalties by Shanton Whitebooi after receiving two dominant scrum penalties to narrow matters, 7-6 in favour of Stars. Flyhalf Lance King converted a penalty to make it 10-6 to Stars and later followed up by good thinking and a quick tap by Stars, saw winger Lucian Millborrow score the first of his brace of tries with a brilliant 50m sprint.
Stars led 15-6 at this stage, while the game started to blossom with salubrious entertaining rugby and brutal physicality and aggression. Just as Brumbies looked down and out, the evergreen Mario Maw O’Brien scored the first of his two tries under the poles. Whitebooi did the necessary as Stars took a narrow 15-13 lead at the break.
Stars brought on their veterans and heavyweights in the second half to bring stability to the scrums. Stars were more than happy to take the points on offer with a penalty won by their forwards and saw them leading 18-13. The home side played with a confidence that saw their skillful and running backline players increased the tempo. O’Brien was at it again, scoring his second converted try after yet another strong scrum. Brumbies took the lead for the first time in the match, leading 20-18.
Stars opted again for a penalty after off-side play from Brumbies, and regained the lead 21-20. The thousands of spectators started singing and dancing and cheering their teams on, as we headed in for a very interesting final ten minutes of the game. Stars’ discipline started lacking and they received a yellow card as Brumbies took full advantage, with brilliant hands by their young backline saw left winger Declan Muller score in the corner.
The conversion was missed and Brumbies were back in the lead 25-21. When Stars’ yellow card player returned, things were looking better for the home side and they showed their class at the back when they stole it and sent winger, Lucian Milborrow over to score the winner in the corner with five minutes left in the game. The conversion was missed and Stars led 26-25. A nerve-wracking final minutes of the game saw Brumbies coming in hard in order to score the winning points. Solid defence from Stars came in handy, and prevented the visitors from scoring in the dying moments of the game.
Brumbies must kick themselves as they dominated lineouts and scrums, scoring opportunities with overlap on the outside, but Stars took their chances and converted them into points. Both teams should be complimented for the good sportsmanship they executed and the profound entertaining running rugby they gave the supporters on the day.
MAN OF THE MATCH
It was a very close call between Stars captain Jacques Maarman, and Brumbies eight-man Mario O’Brien. But the panel went with the inspirational and winning captain of Stars, Jacques Maarman who earned the Grocott’s Mail/Daniels MEDIA Man of the Match Award. Maarman was all over the show, scoring a fantastic try and doing the hard yards up front with his effective turnovers at the breakdowns. He was also solid on defence and gained metres with the ball in hand on attack.
- Lily White vs Trying Stars – 24 June 2023
- Windvogel vs Brumbies – 01 July 2023
EPRU GRAND CHALLENGE GROUP A LOG AS AT 17/06/2023:
- Progress – 33 (7)
- Trying Stars – 28 (7)
- Brumbies – 19 (7)
- Born Fighters – 17 (7)
- Missionvale United – 17 (7)
- Despatch – 12 (7)
- Windvogel United – 7 (7)
- Lily White – 6 (7)