26 April 2017 – The Saint Andrew’s under-15, under-16, 2nd and 1st teams were in local rugby league action for the first time in 2017 on Tuesday when they visited Brandfort. The schools came away with two victories apiece.
There was plenty of Saint Andrew’s spirit on show as Saints took on Brandfort in their first local league matches of 2017
Saints were first in the winning column as the under-15 side triumphed 22-17 in a hard-fought clash. They led 22-5 before two late tries from the hosts provided them with a respectable final score-line.
Lieben Pietersen, the Saint Andrew’s Director of Rugby, declared himself impressed by the under-15’s performance. “[Inside centre] Dimpho [Letloenyane] had a good game,” he added.
“In the rucks and the technical areas, you could see the discipline of the kids, and you could see they are starting to get the structures into place. That helps. One needs to see those lessons being applied.”
The 2nd XV game was all square at 5-5 before Jesse Berlyn broke open the contest with a wonder-try. Describing it as one of the best tries he had seen in schoolboy rugby, Pietersen said: “He bumped a guy off, stepped inside and then with the last guy he did an inside out before scoring the try.” A serious celebration, thoroughly deserved, followed.
The 2nd XV scored a superb 38-5 victory over Brandfort
“After that try, the guys were boosted. Everything started to go for them. The defence worked. Our structures worked,” Pietersen said.
“The guys who practice every day with the first team put up their hands and we won 38-5. I was happy with that.”
Underlining the impressive showing by the 2nd XV, he continued: “It makes me happy to see guys coming through and putting pressure on players in the first team. Josh McKenzie, for example, who has just returned from being side-lined by concussion, scored a hat-trick of tries.”
In the under-16 clash, Saints trailed just 14-19 heading into the final quarter-of-an-hour, but some poor tackling allowed Brandfort to pull clear to a 40-14 victory.
“With under-15 players coming into our team [because the league is played at under-14-and-a-half and under-15-and-a-half level], we have a strong group. They just need to find one another now,” Pietersen commented. “Brandfort has a very good under-16 team. They are coached well.”
The 1st XV match was a tetchy affair, which underlined the closeness of the showdown. Saint Andrew’s scored the first try, but Brandfort then hit back with two of their own before Saints found a second to make it 12-all at half-time.
Jesse Berlyn and the Saints’ 1st XV were unlucky to have this try disallowed for a knock-on
It was a back-and-forth affair in the second stanza, but Saints were extremely unlucky to have a tried disallowed for a knock-on, which photographic evidence later proved had not happened. “That turned the game,” Pietersen reckoned.
Brandfort came close to crossing the Saint Andrew’s try-line again, but Josh McKenzie, on as a substitute, pulled off a stunning try-saving tackle to deny them. In the end, though, a penalty kicked by the home team decided the game 15-12 in their favour.
“The guys gave everything”
“The guys gave everything. I am really proud of them,” Pietersen said.
Reflecting on his charges’ showing, he said the loss of regular hooker Phatu Belot to illness on Sunday had affected the team’s effectiveness at lineout time. Saints also lost scrumhalf Liam Bouwer to a knock just before the break, but Gino Spano did a fine job in his place.
With a number of players expected to return from injury soon, Pietersen is expecting further improvement from the 1st XV.
“Overall, I am very happy with the guys,” he concluded. “It is the beginning of the league. Rather start slowly and end on a high. We are making speedy progress.”